New photography project at Exeter museum shifts focus to young people’s wellbeing

A new photography initiative has been launched by Exeter City Council’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery with the goal of supporting young people living with mental health challenges.

The project, Frame of Mind, is part of a series of community wellbeing projects developed by the museum to support people affected by the wide-reaching impacts of the Covid pandemic.

Guided by local art therapists from the Youth Arts & Health Trust, the scheme hopes to empower young people to utilise the artistic equipment they have to hand – most likely a smartphone camera – to get creative and share work via a kind, supportive space on social media.

“A lot of young people are suffering. We’re getting more than five times the usual number of requests for help, and services for children are stretched to the limit,” explains Laura Blatherwick of the Youth Arts & Health Trust.

“This collaboration is way to combine our mental health training and connections with the museum’s amazing sources of inspiration. Getting outdoors and being creative can put young people back on their feet.”

Frame of Mind participants will be encouraged to view the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery collection as inspiration for their photography, a process which it is hoped can totally reframe how a new generation perceive cultural attractions.

Encouraging the local community to use the museum as a place to find peace and reflect following the easing of lockdown is integral to the site’s broader reopening plans.

“All too often museums can be thought of as places where you simply look. While that can be very fulfilling, these projects are about active engagement with the objects, thoughts and ideas,” notes Amal Ghusain, Exeter City Council’s lead for communities and culture.

“They encourage people to see things in a new way, explore feelings and find time to pause. The wellbeing projects have been created to bring calm following the chaos of the last year, which has affected us all and particularly young people and children. This is not therapy, but it can help them feel better and less alone.”

Frame of Mind has received funding from Arts Council England, Exeter City Council, the Norman Family Charitable Trust and Exeter Arts Society.

More information about the project can be found here.