The Team

“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)

Jo Keay
I have been part of the Open Arts team since it began in 2008 working as a freelance artist facilitating courses and as one of the studio managers at HOFS. I took over the project manager post from Kirsten Heydinrych in December 2014.

Prior to Open Arts I was a founding member of SE-SURG and from 2005-2008 was a member of the arts health research study team commissioned by the DoH and Department for Culture Media and Sport to develop the evidence base for the benefits from arts participation. I worked with academic colleagues to develop and implement the evaluation tool for the project. A version of the tool is used effectively and efficiently in the evaluation of Open Arts. In addition to these roles, I was a community mental health worker for eight years and have been a practising community artist for eleven years.

As an artist I have worked with community groups across the county, enjoying the variety and journey that unfolds in creativity for each individual.


Michele Fazakerley

I began working for Open Arts in 2011 and immediately saw how it acted as a springboard into many new areas of creativity. I enjoy seeing people grow in confidence as they gain new skills and make friends - as the courses and time in the studio unfolds.

Open Arts has given me the opportunity to experience the power of art: both as therapy and as a community builder. 









Paul Alcock
I trained as a painter am now a practicing artist and tutor based in Southend on Sea, Essex. My artwork celebrates the beauty of my surroundings, and I enjoy producing works which reflects the character and atmosphere of the seaside town in which I work and live. I have run courses for Open Arts since its inception, and manage the studio on a Friday. I also run classes and courses and demonstrate painting techniques for art groups and painting holiday companies in Essex, Kent, Cambridgeshire and Italy.

Dawn Van Win
I have always felt a deep connection to nature in my own artistic practice, and like to think of everything I do as a step of discovery within a creative exploration.

I'm especially drawn to working in mixed media, and enjoy helping others to discover the joy to be found in this medium full of texture and colour that reveals such magic when very different materials are used together.


Jackie Shorter
I have been part of Open Arts since 2012, initially as a volunteer then progressing to employment as a Studio Manager (Thursdays) As well as being involved in the 12-week visual art courses, I have lead a glass painting and framing workshop, and helped facilitate a Brazilian percussion course. 

I qualified as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator and studied Art at Southend College of Technology, attaining a Diploma in Printmaking and Illustration. I have worked as a freelance graphic artist/illustrator, and for Castle Point Borough Council, designing and producing their first Borough newspaper.

In 2011, I gained a BA (Hons) in Early Primary Education and have been involved in a range of community projects, most notably Basildon Womens Aid, providing activities to enable women and children in self-esteem building skills at the refuge.

I thoroughly enjoy working with Open Arts and watching members develop new skills, form friendships and learn from each other.


Sue Richardson

My involvement with Open Arts began in 2012 as a participant on one of the 'Fine Art' courses and a studio placement. Following on from this I became a volunteer with the project and an active member of their network and in the wider community.

I instigated a project for Open Arts to create a large scale mural on the sea wall, at the most eastern point of Canvey Island , commemorating the crash of a WW11 bomber in the Thames Estuary in 1944.

I have previous experience both working in theatre and in a variety of mental health settings and believe that anything is possible through collaboration and enthusiasm for artistic and creative pursuits.

Working as a volunteer with Open Arts gives me a great deal of pleasure and I enjoy being instrumental in providing a calm, friendly environment for others to enjoy.


Kathy - volunteer

I started at Open Arts as a participant on one of their twelve week courses. This was followed by a six month studio placement. It was in the studio that I discovered my love of print. 

After doing a Digital Art course I became a volunteer for Open Arts. I have enjoyed working in the studio, on the Digital Art courses and on events such as the Village Green. 

Open Arts is such a supportive and caring environment and they have given me so much confidence. I hope that I can play a part in helping people as I have been helped. 

Richard - volunteer

Richard has been a carer for his wife, sadly she passed away. 'Open Arts has been a life saver for me. There is no other organisation like Open Arts on this level, which offers respite to carers.

Open Arts is there to help pick up the pieces. It has given me something to be part of my world. It's helped me to discover a love of watercolours and be part of a positive creative ambience in the studio.’