“Art is my lifeline” these are the words Zara uses to describe the impact which art-making made on her sense of self and career while she was in Hydebank Wood College.
For 6 years she engaged with PAF’s art residency programme and during that time our Artist in Residence supported her to submit a number of her art works to the Koestler Trust. Zara has won a number of awards over the years including Gold, Silver and Highly Commended; most recently her work received the ‘Lamberth Family Gold Award for Sculpture’ in 2015 and her ‘Slice of Pavlova’ was selected by the curators for Koestler’s RE:FORM UK Exhibition of Art by Offenders at Southbank Centre in London.
Before entering Hydebank Wood College, art did not play a significant role in Zara’s life. Although she enjoyed art at school she never identified herself as an artist or recognised her talent. After her release and with the support of her Probation Officer Zara applied to our mentoring scheme and in December 2016 was matched with one of our fine arts mentors – Anne. They worked together for just over 6 months and Zara received 17 mentoring sessions. In her application Zara wrote “I would like someday to have my own exhibition”, and this is what she accomplished. Anne said her mentee “was aware of her goals and showed enthusiasm throughout the programme. With my guidance and experience, she was able to stay focused and achieve the goals.”
Anne structured some of the mentoring sessions around sourcing images to paint and looking at different styles of artists work.Â They visited numerous art galleries throughout Northern Ireland including the Royal Ulster Academy’s Annual Exhibition and the True Colours exhibition in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Zara said she has found the work of Northern Irish Artist, Colin Davidson, most inspiring.
Anne planned some practical mentoring sessions in PAF’s new Creative Hub, a studio environment, in Belfast. Zara said she found these sessions useful as Anne was able to give her feedback on the painting she had been working on at home. Being able to have discussions with her mentor gave Zara the confidence to expand her painting technique and produce a final body of work for her exhibition.
Zara launched her first solo exhibition ‘Reflective Moments’ in July 2017. Her body of work reflected on memories from childhood to present day and her subject matter incorporated humour and local surroundings. She used mostly acrylic paint in the works, combining it with mixed media to create texture.
IMPACT & SUCCESS
Engagement in PAF’s arts mentoring scheme encouraged Zara to promote and sell her work to a wider audience. 13 of the original 16 artworks displayed were sold during her exhibition, and she has been commissioned to paint a further 7 pieces of art for both individuals and local businesses.
Since the completion of her mentoring, Zara has continued to link in with her local arts club, and she has also taken on the secretary role within her local AA group which comes with a certain level of responsibility and commitment.
When reflecting on her mentoring journey Zara said “contact, structure and routine is something the mentoring programme gave her”, it also gave her “confidence on many levels…a big step for me was travelling to Belfast for my mentoring sessions with Anne in the creative hub. This was a real personal achievement.”
Her engagement with art is a success story on two levels: the first relates to Zara’s artistic achievements, and the second, the beneficial impact of art-making on Zara’s sense of self, her emotional well-being and her relationships.
*mentee’s name has been changed to protect confidentiality