Ros Barthelmy is an artist based in Hackney who uses social art therapy to help families affected by mental health and relationship breakdowns.
She is currently holding an exhibition of her works, inspired by her experience as a social art therapist, at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham.
Her exhibits are colourful collages, made of different layers, and expressing both the energy and the distress of the city and its diverse inhabitants. She draws her inspiration in particular from urban decay and the beauty of street culture.
Ros Barthelmy started working in the social field about 10 years ago, after graduating from St Martin’s School of Art. She worked as a family support co-ordinator, facilitating the integration of people who found it hard, for different reasons, to engage with mainstream services.
Eight years ago, She co-funded the Tantrums Children’s Creative Centre, which is based in Hackney. The centre provides activities such as drama, music and movement for children under the age of five.
Tantrums has been initially designed for families who thought or felt they couldn’t go into the more government-based establishment, such as the “Sure Start” programme.
Ros Barthelmy and her friend and co-founder of Tantrum, Kathy Moore, noticed that people who had grown up in Hackney and ethnic minority families were not accessing this government programme as freely as the wealthier families who moved into the area more recently.
Ros has worked as a social art therapist with marginalised groups of people, who may be vulnerable or at risk of anti-social behaviour and also, more recently, with young carers whose parents suffer from mental illness or physical disabilities.
She said: “I would say that young carers are another example of the hidden society. These children are actually doing a job. Most of the time it’s unrecognised or unsupported. So with the service I work for (Family action) we actually try and raise awareness of the difficulties of those children.
“We hold creative workshops to get them talking, to get them expressing their worries, their feelings, their emotions. A lot of children bottle things up. They feel that people don’t understand, don’t know, don’t care. So it’s about breaking that mould again. It’s about inclusion.”
Ros Barthelmy’s personal exhibition, called Nurcha.it, takes place until the end of May in the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, in Tottenham.
The art therapist was seduced by the approach of this centre, which aims to be a place where local and multiethnic communities can freely promote their work.
She says although Hackney has a large artistic community, is it not easy to find a place to exhibit if you don’t pay a certain amount of money.
Ros Barthelmy also plans to hold exhibitions of works made by the young people she works therapeutically with. The aim is to give these individuals the opportunity to have a platform to express their stories, as well as to promote alternative voices and under-represented communities.
For more on the exhibition click here.
Hear more from Ros Barthelmy: