Grant to preserve unique art therapy archive

West Sussex Record Office and Outside In awarded a grant from the Wellcome Trust of £46,023 to preserve an archive.

It is hoped the project will offer a rare insight into the use of art therapy as a form of treatment.

Outside In is a charity which supports artists who find it difficult to access the art world for reasons including health, disability, isolation or social circumstance.

The Vawdrey Archive comprises approximately 194 paintings produced by patients in art therapy sessions run by Dr Brian Vawdrey between 1951 to 1971 and a copy of Vawdrey’s illustrated thesis, ‘Art in Analysis’.

The archive is an unusual record of early art therapy work which provides an important insight into the therapeutic process and has the potential to offer a unique perspective on the development of art therapy as a discipline.

This funding will enable the Record Office, in partnership with Outside In, to catalogue, preserve, and digitise this archive, eventually making the catalogue and digitised images available online.

A series of consultation sessions involving Outside In artists who have had lived experience of mental health issues will enhance and enrich the catalogue – a new and innovative way of approaching medical and hospital archives.

Debbie Kennard, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, said: “Our Record Office does an amazing job when it comes to preserving and archiving unique collections such as these.”

Wendy Walker, County Archivist at West Sussex Record Office said: “This funding will enable us to preserve a unique archive that will provide a fascinating insight into the role of art therapy at a critical stage in the understanding of mental health in the 1950s and 1960s.

“I am delighted that we will be able to explore this archive with Outside In, contemporary artists, academic colleagues and health care professionals and develop innovative ways to make it accessible to new audiences today.

“We are extremely grateful to the Wellcome Trust for all of their support in making this happen”.

Marc Steene, Director of Outside In, said: “Outside In is extremely excited to be working with the West Sussex Record Office on this highly innovative project.

“Enabling Outside In artists, with a lived experience of mental health issues, to be given the opportunity to guide and be consulted in the archiving of this incredibly fragile and rare collection of patient art work will provide important learning for all.

“We are also delighted to continue our relationship with the Wellcome Trust and thank them for their support with this project.”