The act of sharing our own talents and skills can bring as much wonder to others as a brand new gaming device or pair of fluffy socks. That moment when your ears meet a new song, or when your body see a new dance groove, or when tears roll down your face when experiencing an emotional monologue can be equally tantalising.
You may be reading this thinking that you do do 'your bit' for society. After all, you give up your seat on the bus for those who need it most, you donate your old clothes to charity and you're be more than eager to donate your taste bud tantalising cakes at a bake sale. But, have you thought about donating your artistic talents in the same light? If you are doing your Arts Award, you will have to share your skill with others, so why not do it for a good cause?
Examples of this that spring to mind include Jodi Ann Bickley, who founded onemillionlovelyletters.com after suffering a stroke at 22 year old, which left her paralysed on her right side. Her project aims to send one million strangers a lovely pick-me-up. Bickley invites others to send in a personal letter that they 'never sent', so that she can pass these on to someone in need of a reminder of how amazing they are. To date, she has written 4000 letters, with over 9000 letters being penned in by those she has inspired. On the importance of sharing her art with others, Bickley stated: "I think what's important is that we live in a world where so many of us suffer from alienation…My letters tell people they are not alone. I care for them. Other people care for them. It's an important message."
Likewise, acclaimed visual artist and mental health advocate Liz Atkin is widely known for producing free drawings on newspapers on public transport around the world. So far, she has given away over 15,000 free drawings and states that as a sufferer of compulsive skin picking, she uses art to distract herself from her disorder. By drawing the picture on public transport, she provokes a conversation about a condition so misunderstood, which in turn helps others.
How can you help others?
- Schools are always looking for volunteers of some sort. Why not offer to teach others? For example, if you enjoy writing or poetry, you could assist in organising a poetry recital night for students. Or, you could help out at an after school club by running a craft session for eager students.
- I helped out my old primary school by assisting their production of a well-known Shakespeare play that I had recently finished touring. Sometimes what the students wanted was another person with a different skill or interpretation to stimulate their own creative juices.
- Theatre in Education- are you theatrical? Why not procure a production about an issue that children need to be educated about, in a way which differs from a textbook. Grab an issue, grab a team and get thinking! Bring that piece to a school and see what you can learn from the next generation.
- Sadly, some people have to stay in hospitals for much longer than they imaged. To combat this, I've seen dance groups perform pieces to poorly children on wards. They dressed themselves up as princesses and performed for the children. This is incredibly joyful for them over the festive period when they are missing out on the parades or the Christmas buzz outside.
- You could design your own Christmas cards for the residents and distribute them in funny fancy dress attires.
- Likewise, reading to residents can really boast their spirits. If you are a keen writer or musician, I'm certain that you'll be able to share something wonderful with the crowd.
- If you like more daring art skills, such as flower arranging or interior design, why not create something divine to decorate the wards with? Colour can be missed on often white wards and sometimes a bright boast of orange or pink can make someone smile.
- A funny postcard can be produced for a poorly child, through schemes like Cards for Hospitalized Kids, that deliver cards to children in US hospitals.
- You could volunteer for a library by shelving books, but why not go the extra mile? You could read books to children, lead book group discussions, create a mural, start a new writer's club or an evening where inspiring arts are shared.
- Create a college of inspiring quotes or images with a personal message to you and leave these in books that you borrow from the library. The next reader will not only receive a tale, but also a little sign that someone else wants to make their reading experience more enjoyable.
Other ways that you can use your art skills to help others:
- Show off your creative flair by decorating a yummy cake and donating this to a homeless shelter
- Put on a play or exhibition and do not charge any entry fee. Instead, ask that attendees bring a new, warm pair of gloves, scarves or pyjamas and donate these to those who will be cold this year.
- Offer to take pictures of tourists on the street.
- Take photos of stray pets, to raise awareness about funds being diverted from neutering them.
- Knit a wooly hat for an Innocent smoothies bottle. These are sold and a percentage of the retail price is donated to Age UK. Get inolved here.
To conclude, think as imaginatively as you can about helping others. Have a look at what's available to you that you may not have considered and do not be afraid to do something that no-one else has done before. As long as you do it safely, there should be nothing holding you back.
Ready to start your Arts Award? Find out more here.