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The Health Tree
sarahnicholson.com
 

Health tree

SHADO was a community based Family Support Service with experience and qualified staff offering people aged 11 upwards throughout Merseyside; support, advice, information, confidential counselling and after care.

I was invited by counsellor Jo Moran planned to make a sculpture using recycled materials exploring health issues with a small group of 12-15 year olds of mixed ability and from an at risk community as part of her research work for Evans Medical, and required an arts professional to lead workshops and to design and produce the work.

Most of the group had issues concerning authority and social interaction, therefore an important part of the project was getting them to work together as a group and to see all contributions as equal. This was achieved by allocation of tasks and responsibilities and simply by treating them as adults and not patronising them.

The plan we settled on was of a tree symbolising growth, featuring wisdom represented by an owl, hearts signalling compassion, the sun symbolising power and a spider signifying industry. We also explored the use of pattern as a dynamic of expression and placed nails in an upward motion so as to enhance the message of growth.

Although there was some initial scepticism, this evaporated as each individual element was completed. When the finished piece was assembled the participants gained an obvious sense of achievement and satisfaction on seeing their work looking so good and being admired by other professionals in the SHADO organisation.

The finished artwork has now been installed as a permanent feature on the stairwell of the SHADO building, to the great satisfaction of the staff and facility users, attracting positive feedback.

I am very pleased with the creative development of the project and with the level of involvement achieved by the workshop participants, all of whom stretched themselves intellectually, creatively and emotionally. The debates inspired by the work have made a positive contribution to the individuals involved by helping them to air concerns and ask questions of informed SHADO staff.

As an arts practitioner I was very pleased with the attitude of all staff at SHADO, with the level of support and commitment and with the realistic level of remuneration offered. It is a great shame that the organisation was taken over by another, however I believe that they kept the sculpture.