Artists’ Survival Manual

‘Saturday Studio’ is a professional development programme for artists who have left the inpatient care of South London and Maudlsey NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). It has been made possible by the generous support of our funders: the Maudsley Charity and the Lankelly Chase Foundation.

The project is a collaboration between the Bethlem Gallery and the Bethlem Royal Hospital’s Occupational Therapy Arts Studios. Beginning in September 2011, the course has offered a range of studio-based sessions with guest artists and speakers, including demonstrations of practical skills, advice from arts professionals, mentoring and peer support. Sessions have provided advice on the professional aspects of working as an artist, such as pricing, selling, exhibiting and documenting artwork, self-representation and career-development, alongside workshops in specific art skills such as painting, printmaking, stone carving, experimental drawing, still life, kiln firings and decorative ceramic techniques. Course content is suggested by the participants and devised to bridge gaps in knowledge, bring in external expertise and work with the existing skills and strengths of participants and staff.

The project recognises the wide range of experience of our artists: for those who have already completed further and postgraduate education it offers the opportunity to try out new techniques and revisit ideas and processes with others; for those who have not yet studied and are contemplating pursuing further education, it prepares them for that choice; for those who are moving straight into professional practice and are not contemplating education, it provides a supportive social network, peer critique and access to art-world expertise.

The aim from the outset was to bridge a gap in provision, supporting service-user artists from across SLaM during that difficult period of transition between leaving the hospital and achieving independence as artists working in the wider community. The project recognises that finding an environment in which to share practice is a common issue for all artists. The social and peer-led aspects of the project were therefore emphasised, allowing artists to contribute and participate on their own terms. High quality provision, professional advice and critical debate were made available in a relaxed environment and the course sought both to support and challenge participants.

The Artist’s Survival Manual documents the first year of the project and brings together all the useful information collected over this period. We envisage the manual will continue to grow and be added to, creating a legacy of the project and enabling artists from across SLaM and beyond to survive and thrive.