“I wanted to get up and do something which was a challenge. I learned respect for myself and for others as well. It’s not just the art work now it is about quality of life, about how I should be looking after myself as well. No one criticised me. I started at a very low level with my art work. Now I am able to move on.” (Studio member)

In 2011 we conducted a successful Control Trial with £48K funding from Anglia Ruskin University, which compared wellbeing and social inclusion results for those who attended an Open Arts course against those who remained on the waiting list. The results were statistically significant improvements for those who attended, compared with no change for those who did not attend. Those on the waiting list were offered a place on a subsequent Open Arts course, to which their evaluation results also showed improved scores. The study has been published in the Royal Society for Public Health Journal, Public Perspectives in Health.

Click here to read the waiting list controlled evaluation.

Click here to read the HOFS studio evaluation and summary.

The Open Arts Studio evaluation of the first year of the art studio (Jan - December 2013) is now published in the January 2015 edition of the Journal of Applied Arts and Health (Vol 5.3) The evaluation has been peer reviewed, which means that the findings have academic seal of approval. Although the study was small there was enough evidence to show that the studio project made a positive impact on well-being and mental health.

Click here to read the article.

The article can be downloaded via,id=19071/ Wilson, C., Kent, L., & Secker, J. (2014). Arts participation, mental wellbeing and social inclusion: mixed methods evaluation of an Open Arts studio for people with mental health needs. Journal of Applied Arts & Health, 5(3),

In 2017 Open Arts had two pieces of research published; Promoting mental wellbeing and social inclusion through art: six month follow-up results from Open Arts Essex  Ceri Wilson, Jenny Secker, Lyn Kent & Jo Keay.

The research looked at the participants’ experiences of the course and also measured their wellbeing and social inclusion three and six months after it finished.

A questionnaire taken immediately after the course finished showed that all respondents enjoyed the activity and 90% reported increased motivation to do art work. More than 80% reported improved confidence.

After three months, most were continuing with their art work and some had taken it further, attending other art groups and even enrolling in courses at college. After six months, activities undertaken by participants included joining a choir, running an art group at a substance misuse service and making a documentary film.

Participants also showed significant improvements in measures of mental health and social inclusion, and these improvements continued at both three and six months after the course.

Anglia Ruskin’s Dr Ceri Wilson, co-author of the study, said: “The results of this study add further weight to the growing evidence that arts participation is an effective means of promoting mental wellbeing and social inclusion for people experiencing, or at risk of, mental health problems.

“A key aim was to assess whether the benefits were maintained in the long-term and this study shows this was indeed the case. The majority were continuing their art work and for those pursuing related courses or work, social inclusion gains are likely.” To read the full article:

Jenny Secker, Kirsten Heydinrych, Lyn Kent & Jo Keay (2017): Why art? Exploring the contribution to mental well-being of the creative aspects and processes of visual artmaking in an arts and mental health course, Arts & Health

This study explored the specific part played by the creative aspects of introductory arts courses that aim to improve mental well-being. Nine course participants consented to recording of accreditation assessment  meetings held with them towards the end of their course.

Results: Thematic analysis identified themes relating to two categories: creative processes and the learning that ensued. The creative processes were playful experimentation and inspiration. Learning processes revolved around learning to learn and artistic development.

Conclusions: Previous studies have found play, inspiration and learning to be associated with well-being. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that the creative aspects of the courses did play an important part in improving participants’ well-being.

To read the full article please click