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Bringing people together through art

Celtic knots: Teaching generations young and old about art
Celtic knots: Teaching generations young and old about art


THE VC GALLERY held a Celtic Knot workshop yesterday (Feb 1) funded by leader project PLANED, so people of all generations could come to socialise for the afternoon and express themselves through art.

With a friendly atmosphere and a smile to greet you at the door, the VC Gallery, which stands for Veterans and the Community, is a drop in centre on High Street in Haverfordwest for veterans, but also helps various groups of people within the community through art engagement.

The Gallery is a huge part of the community, and helps people with mental health problems such as depression and veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also helps new mothers, people with learning disabilities, autism, and the socially excluded who have nowhere else to go.

Founder of the organisation, Barry John MBE, served in the armed forces for 24 years, and set up the organisation by himself when he left. Since then, Barry has helped thousands of people.

Barry John MBE and Steve Portwood: Showcasing dramatic symbolic paintings

Mr John said: “Every Wednesday we have a community art group that’s cross-generational, which involves lonely and socially isolated people.

“We try to create a hub where we can socialise and be creative, which is part of our pathway to inspire. We want to bring a wide range of Welsh art to the projects, and to be diverse.

“We’ve talked about historical Welsh artists and Welsh landscapes, and we want to be emotive with our art, which is why today we are looking at celtic and trial knots, as they have strong, intricate lines and patterns.

“We also can deliver some of the subject history along with its artistic intent.”

People of all ages and abilities attended the workshop, along with 93-year-old Irene and her neighbour, Carol.

Workshop regulars: 93-year-old Irene and her neighbour, Carol

Irene said: “The workshops give me company and gives me a chance to learn new things. It’s lovely!”

She added: “If it weren’t for Carol, I wouldn’t go anywhere or see anyone.”

Next week, the gallery will be hosting a show called ‘Compulsion to Paint’ on February 8, which showcases the fantastic work of Steve Portwood. This is to coincide with Bi-Polar Awareness Month, occurring this February, and demonstrates the struggle he has been through with his mental health.

Speaking to The Herald, Mr Portwood said: “I suffer with bi-polar and have done since I left the army. My work is a way of expressing how I feel and how I see bi-polar, and I’ve tried to incorporate other people’s feelings and how they see it in their mind.”

Some of Steve’s work will also be going on display at a show at Bro Cerwen later this month in aid of bi-polar awareness, and Steve hopes that his work will resonate with people who feel like same way.

“I hope it will help people with the emotions they are having,” he said.

Speaking about the gallery itself, Steve said: “You can come in here in any mood and speak to Barry. The gallery has picked me up when I’m thinking I’m worthless and can’t achieve anything, and when I use my art to express myself, it highlights the things that I can achieve.I feel like I’ve accomplished something and done something productive rather than go with the negaivity.”

The next workshop on February 8 will be held at the VC Gallery in Haverfordwest, from 12.30pm-2.30pm. For more information, you can visit their website or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thevcgallery