WORK has begun on Sustain’s latest service user art project - creating a 6ft obelisk depicting the life and strife of living in a coalmining community in Wakefield.

Sustain is TLA’s service in Wakefield which works to prevent homelessness amongst some of the most vulnerable individuals, couples and families in the city. This is the third arts related project they have undertaken, funded by culture grants from Wakefield Council, and follows on from a musical production focusing on overcoming challenges with hope, courage and support, plus a mural depicting inclusivity.

For this project, eight Sustain service users and two members of staff have joined forces with The Urban Commune, a community arts project encouraging emotional and mental wellbeing through creativity, to create the obelisk sculpture that will represent a lump of coal. It will feature imagery relating to the coalmining industry and the memories that service users have of living in the communities around collieries before they were closed.

The completed obelisk will be gifted to the National Coalmining Museum in December and will be on display until March next year. It will be exhibited alongside a book capturing photos and sketches explaining how the sculpture took shape, alongside personal written accounts of living in a mining community by the group. The front cover of the book is being created by Sustain service user Georgie, and drawings by Wakefield artist and service user Julie will feature inside.

“The idea for the project sprung from a discussion we had as an art group after we’d finished the mural in the summer. It was around mining in Wakefield and the memories people had of growing up in mining communities and the impact of the 1984/85 miners’ strike,” explained Sustain Volunteer and Peer Development Coordinator Fran Lomax.

It is expected to take some six weeks to create the obelisk which is being made primarily out of MDF and textured with a type of paper mâché, clay and plasticine to give it the chunky rough texture of coal. A pickaxe and tilly lamp will complete the imagery.

“Art and creativity have proved to be successful not only in enabling people to express their feelings but from a social perspective in terms of meeting others and making friends, both of which enhance mental well-being. We have seen with our own service users that taking part in group activities helps alleviate loneliness and social anxiety, two mental wellbeing issues that can make people vulnerable to homelessness,” explained Fran.

“This project gives us the chance to use materials we haven’t worked with before and create a sculpture which is also a new aspect of art for the group. We’ve made a good start and are looking forward to seeing how the obelisk takes shape.”

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