I got introduced to Front Lounge in 2018 through the project JAMD. 2018 was the Year of the Young People: JAMD was a community engagement project that allowed young people express through art what it means to be a young person in 2018. It was my very first community art project, and my first project working with other artists. I agreed to get involve because I wanted to pursue art therapy and the impact art has on mental health. It proved to be a really rewarding introduction and I quickly learned how Front Lounge works: Front Lounge makes you feel like someone has belief in you. I have never had anyone support me the way Front Lounge do.
Encouragement, and the time that the people in Front Lounge provide really sparks something that makes you feel like you can do anything.
I was a part of the Foolish Optimism working group responsible for organising a national conversation about young people, mental health and hope. I lead the poster campaign. It was my first time properly leading a project by myself. The poster campaign turned into a series of expressive art workshops, creating art to facilitate conversations. The conversations were raw and the space was safe.
Foolish Optimism came at the right time for me. I had never talked about my mental health before and hearing other people talk made me open up. I then had conversations with my family about it; I wouldn’t have ever spoken to my family about mental health without the help of Foolish Optimism. But it wasn’t just me. We partnered with many different organisations and projects, and reached so many people all over Scotland. The best part for me was having the opportunity to go to Barra; the conversations we had in Barra around mental health were the same as the conversations I was having in Dundee. It made me realise that people all over were struggling, and the message of Foolish Optimism really resonated: we are not alone.
The conversations of Foolish Optimism became the activism of Hope Hub. The experience of Hope Hub has been absolutely brilliant. I have learned so much doing this. Hope Hub was meant to be meeting in small groups working with partner organisations to help participants express how they feel in a safe space through art. Because of COVID-19 Hope Hub turned into Hope Box. So many new people got involved. The project has been such an amazing experience and gave me self-belief and confidence. The part of this project that will stick with me the most is how many people we reached and have been involved with. By the end of 2020, 1000+ Hope Boxes had been delivered!
There have been so many exciting Hope Hub spinoff projects. We ran an Tayside wide art competition; we created a website and started an Instagram account; we hosted livestream events; we created an online safe meeting space during the summer of 2020 and brought different groups together, using art, music and fun; and my personal favourite was a creative art exchange with a group of South African based artists exploring the impact of the national lockdowns on our lives. I’m so proud of everyone that’s been a part of Hope Hub. It’s been an amazing project!
I was never alone in my projects, I always had someone helping and supporting me and it’s helped me so much personally. I feel that once you start working with people it makes you want to have a better understanding of them. All the projects have given me great knowledge. I am now able to have conversations with people with a better understanding.