One comment on paper beside a piece of art said it all: “The art relaxes me. It keeps me away from temptation.”
The collection of work, on display at Central Library over the next week, comes from the hearts and souls of people who have faced huge challenges in life.
A joint venture between De Paul Ireland at the Foyle Having and First Housing, the project was aimed at adults who have coped with the huge pressures of addiction and all that addiction brings.
Eithne Gfellar, the artist facilitator of the group, said working with people at the haven had been a unique and fantastic experience.
“They are just a brilliant group,” she said.
“I’ve worked with this group for eight weeks and the creativity has been amazing. At first, some of the participants were very reluctant to put something on paper at all.”
In a telling observation, Eithne remarked how many of the participants found it difficult to take praise.
“Sometimes I could see that people found it hard to accept praise but the work we have here is an amazing achievement. Each individual piece has its own story to tell.
“A lot of the work completed is about loss, that was a big theme for many of the participants.
“There’s no doubt that a lot of painful emotions came up, but we had a lot of fun too.”
Elaine Carlin, Manager of the Foyle Haven said: “We’re delighted to be a part of the project. Initiatives like this really enhance self esteem. Some of the people who took part wouldn’t have drawn since their school days and would have grown in so many ways and really gained a lot from being a part of this.”
Lorraine Lambert from First Housing praised the joint venture.
“This is a fantastic partnership and we’re delighted that First Housing service users were able to work together on it. We’re hoping to take the exhibition outside the city and we’re hoping this will be the first of many ventures with the Foyle Haven.”
Eileen Best, from Foyle Housing, added: “The exhibition is brilliant. People have rediscovered a lot of their hidden talents and it’s been a huge confidence builder. I’m just so pleased that we were given the opportunity to be a part of the exhibition.”
Deirdre Roche, from De Paul Ireland said: “Work like this shows that art can be a real outlet people. This work shows ability and talent and we’re so proud of all the service users who took part. This has given a lot of people a bit of self esteem and that really is something worth celebrating.”
Poignant statements from a number of service users were positioned beside the artwork.
One message, next to a religious piece of art, simply read: “This statue of Our Lady is special. I pray to her to help me stay sober.”
Another participant explained how the process had helped them:
“In the past nine months I have been coming to the haven. I was very hesitant and wary about getting involved in the art as therapy classes but without trepidation it has been a wonderful success for me.”
Another heartfelt personal statement read: “This is a print of my children. I am having a tough time at the minute but I think about them all the time.
“This is my first drawing that I’ve done in years but it means so much to me as a mammy.”
In a final comment, and one of the most simple out of all the messages left, a participant simply said:
“I like my drawing.”
The exhibition runs at Derry’s Central Library until Friday November 15 and contains a mixture of photography, pottery and print making.