It’s not every day that you get to see other artist’s paintings in the making. However, the other day I had the pleasure of accepting an invitation from the West End Community House, to come and experience their Art Group in action.

Every Friday morning for the past 10 years, the West End Community House has provided a creative outlet for people in our community who experience mental illness, disability, social isolation, homelessness or marginalised accommodation. It is a safe, inclusive place that doesn’t discriminate between the participants, but rather focuses on art practices that suit each individual’s ability and needs. Under the thoughtful guidance of art teacher volunteers Sam Eyles, Debaran Wright and Charlee Pollard, artists get to explore their creativity and develop their skills. But perhaps more importantly, they also get to develop a sense of self worth and personal identity. Volunteers Lydia Mackenzie and Norma Morgan also make sure that nobody goes hungry for morning tea.

Upon my arrival, I was greeted by one of the resident artists, who introduced himself as John Doherty. It was obvious that John had benefitted from his time with the art group over the years, and that he had developed a strong identity as an artist. He was clearly proud of his achievements, and eager to show me around the place.

He presented me with a selection of recent paintings produced by him and other artists from the group – some of which were hanging on the walls in the basement of the West End Community House. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the work that I saw – in fact, some of the paintings on display would be the envy of many established artists and galleries. There was a certain kind of purity about the work, and a real sense of freedom of expression – something many professional artists strive to achieve.

The Art Group, which on most occasions averages between 15 and 30 participants, usually work outside in the backyard of the community house. Here there is plenty of space, great light and more art materials than you can poke a paintbrush at. The camaraderie around the tables makes for a nice atmosphere, and there are many unique styles and techniques at play. John introduced me to a few of the other artists, and each and one of them talked about their work with great enthusiasm. One particular lady had a few issues painting a tree, and although I was more than happy to offer my five cents worth, I think as a whole I was the one learning the most!

The West End Community House Art Group has had several successful public exhibitions over the years. Most recently, their exhibition at The Loading Dock Espresso in West End saw them sell more than fifty percent of their paintings. Not surprising, considering the quality of the work and the very reasonable prices. Perhaps it is worth considering investing in the groups work now, before they become too famous and expensive!

Their next exhibition will be held at Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland’s (MIFQ) 22nd Annual Art Exhibition – Kaleidoscope, which opens at King George Square at 6pm Friday May 10, featuring works from all participating artists in the group. Don’t miss it!

For more information about The West End Community House Art Group, visit westendcommunityhouseartgroup.blogspot.com.au