Creative community conversations
“What makes your cells sing?” It’s a question that Jules Haddock, Art of the Minds President and & genU Training Mental Health Educator, often asks people. “What makes you really happy, like every cell is dancing in your body? Those things are really important to our mental health,” she says.
Arts of the Minds is a local organisation that aims to activate, educate and engage the Surf Coast and broader community to creatively manage their mental health and wellbeing. The organisation offers a resilience-focused, creative festival in October that coincides with National Mental Health Month to help reduce the stigma around mental health and normalise experiences with mental illness across all ages and demographics. From a yoga class, sound healing session and art exhibition to an open mic, song contest and panel discussions, there’s a broad range of events on offer.
The philosophy underpinning Art of the Minds is about “celebrating creative community conversations and connections in mental wellbeing”. The organisation is passionate about the prevention of mental illness and the support of those in recovery. Given that approximately one in five Australian adults have experienced mental illness in the past 12 months, this festival couldn’t be more valuable. “Today, so many people are impacted by mental health that we’re trying to make it more of the norm,” explains Jules.
This year, the Geelong Community Foundation has provided Art of the Minds with a $15,000 grant to support the mental health and wellbeing events they will run during National Mental Health Week, with the aim of improving education to the community around raising awareness of mental illness. “Even though it’s got an art or creative focus, we try and use those events to educate people,” shares Jules.
The festival invites community engagement and, if people feel comfortable, they can share empowering lived experiences of managing their mental health. “It’s done in a way that we make the conversation accessible to people who wouldn’t normally come to mental-health education. We sneak in the back door by saying we’re having an art exhibition, but you might attract artists that have never talked about their experiences,” explains Jules. “One example is a lady who, when she first joined, she put her name down as anonymous. Then the following year, she put her Christian name down. And then last year, she put her whole name down and was really vocal about how this exhibition each year gives her something to live with, and she really feels like she’s found her tribe,” she continues.
“The guts of everything we do is to make sure there’s always people’s experiences involved – it’s looking at how the creative world helps share stories of lived experiences.” Jules understands the value of creativity in managing mental health first-hand. “Some people find it really difficult to articulate their emotions and feelings just by sitting and talking to someone, but they can in song, writing, dance or artwork, and that release is so important. I know that as a young person, if I didn’t have my art release, how could I have let those feelings out?”
In addition to being a non-profit charity, Art of the Minds also gives back to the community by supporting other charities. As part of this year’s festival, the Starry Starry Night Ball on October 1st at Mt Duneed Estate is supporting Foundation 61, which is a community organisation that offers hope and direction for people experiencing life-controlling difficulties. “The ball is a massive fundraiser, so we’re really excited about it. It’s a complete frock up. We’ve got a big band, a surprise dance by the fairies of the sky and a great MC who’s volunteering her time. We’ve also got a giant elephant coming, because that represents the ‘elephant in the room’,” shares Jules.
Jules explains how the festival uses vulnerability in an empowering way. “It’s about giving each other permission to be vulnerable, and then learning from that vulnerability. You may be able to empower yourself to do activities that are creative to help you feel better, but you also need to know when you need professional help. We’re not a fluffy arts festival – we’re also sending a message around education and learning the importance of mental health.”