Meet the Volunteers - Simon McAulay

This week, we would like to introduce you to the amazing Simon McAulay, who volunteers with our ReConnect programme. If his name is familiar already, it's because Simon has been a Project Ability artist for five years now, and has exhibited several times in our gallery and internationally. He has become an integral part of the ReConnect team, and uses his experience as a participant to tailor his workshops to the other artists' needs and interests.

"Volunteering at Project Ability has been an amazing experience for me. I began volunteering almost as soon as I started attending the workshops. This took the form of giving talks using Keynote presentations. While I was informing and talking about my artwork on a personal level, and this was rewarding, I also felt I would like to give back to the programme by working more directly with participants. 

I had been impressed and inspired by my fellow participants in the Reconnect studio. The level of interest and motivation to make visual work was really high. This was the first time I had encountered a mental health and wellbeing programme which really focused on art practice. I found the studio programme such a nourishing experience that as time passed, my confidence grew, and I started to run workshops.

The artist and participants in the studio have such a genuine interest in visual art. Both as a means of expression and as valid activity. I have been lucky enough to witness the participants journeys and felt I could contribute to these in the form of workshops. Working as a practicing artist in the studio has given me the opportunity to design workshops which are based on, and have a feel for the rich tapestry of practice found in the studio.

The three workshops which are now rotated throughout the Reconnect 10 week block are the: Film group, Critique group, and Colour mixing workshop.

I was nervous at first in all three. Then I realised just how passionate the participants were. There were really interesting conversations and observations which reflected the commitment of participants. The depth of knowledge and critical ability is inspiring and has informed my own practice.

So although I was nervous, I soon began to feel more comfortable. As the sessions progressed I felt there was so much support. For each other and for myself. This for me was amazing. This was giving a voice to the quiet warm feeling in the studio on a regular workshop day. Articulating in quite complex ways, a sense of mutual support and encouragement.

I have been inspired by other volunteers, participating artists and staff, to run workshops as a way of contributing to the Reconnect programme, and have found this to be an enriching process. For my journey as a person with lived experience of mental ill health, for my visual art practice, and my journey as an artist, the volunteer opportunities have been amazing. And I hope I have given back as much as I have gained."

Thank you Simon!

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