Over the last year, we’ve all struggled to find ways to connect. But Rowan Alba has been exploring new opportunities for service users to communicate and express themselves within the community. Recently we had the chance to sit down with Samantha Rutherford, who has been key to this new approach. Sam is an artist whose particular interest is in art education and community projects. She has been working closely with CARDS, sending out art supplies and encouraging service users to become involved in the artistic world.

This work has been particularly important in the face of the recent lockdown restrictions, where usual meetings and activities could not take place. Delivering postcards and art supplies, hosting zoom meetings, and publishing artwork in the CARDS Community Zine, have all done wonders for people during this more difficult period.

As someone who has created art and been involved in the arts community for most of her life, Sam certainly has the knowledge to educate and inspire those who may not have considered themselves artists, or ever had an interest in art, to finally give it a go. She has worked with the National Galleries to provide sessions for both beginners and returning artists, and she believes that everyone should be given the opportunity to explore art. Sam’s experience in helping others to become involved with art makes her perfectly suited to building the strong personal relationships that Rowan Alba believes in. With the time and effort she has put in, Sam’s art projects have been a great contribution towards CARDS’ work in supporting and helping isolated people.

When we asked Sam how she first became involved with using art to teach and inspire people, she told us that a knowledge exchange partnership that she was invited to take part in had been a turning point in her role as an art educator. The project looked at how people’s environment effected their recovery, and as Sam put it, “My role as an artist was really just facilitating the voices of folk at Rowan Alba … so that really piqued my interest of how art could be used in a positive and proactive way.” People’s stories and lived experiences were brought out through photography, encouraging greater discussion and understanding amongst these communities. Through art, Sam found that she could help to encourage, support and include those who might otherwise be forgotten.

Gallery of Sam Rutherford’s work

Sam’s work encompasses socio-political themes and is inspired by current events. Sam uses Photoshop to create collages using images from an array of found sources. 

Sam clearly has a lot of experience with teaching and using art in a positive way, but we wanted to know how she thought art had been specifically helping CARDS. She told us that art has been very important in allowing people to express themselves and explore their emotions, particularly during the periods of isolation over lockdown. Sometimes it might be hard for people to express themselves in words, but art can provide a window into someone’s thoughts and feelings; both for themselves, but also for the community that they interact with. Bringing the individual out into the community is something that Rowan Alba tries to encourage, and over the years Sam has found that art is often the perfect way for this to happen.

CARDS have been sending out packs of materials to people in the community to give them the tools to get started with art

The art packs and meetings that Sam has sent out to CARDS members have provided people with the time, space and material needed to explore art for the first time or renew their old interests. From cameras to pencils to paint, Sam has sent out resources to many CARDS service users over the last year. As a result, talented individuals, who might otherwise have not been able to show their skill, have been sharing art through Rowan Alba’s CARDS Community Zine. This has brought a powerful sense of purpose, fulfillment and enjoyment. But art is not just about talent and exhibition. Sometimes having the quiet, personal time to write a small poem or do some painting is all someone needs.

“There really does feel like there has been a shift in allowing people to make art … it’s more about the process than what the product is.”

Sam Rutherford

We have seen the positive effects of Sam’s work already, with these art projects really starting to bear fruit. All sorts of art are being created and shared amongst our communities, and so many people are starting to get involved. That’s why we at Rowan Alba are actively working to expand upon the great progress that Sam has already made. We want to bring even more opportunities and resources to people who can really benefit from the positive impact that creating and experiencing art can have. Art should not be seen as a luxury, it should be accessible for everyone who wants to take part in it. Whether it’s drawing for ten minutes or spending months on a big piece, art is a way of expressing and communicating things that might otherwise be left unsaid. It is a way of providing purpose and fulfillment, and it is a way of bringing individuals and communities together.

On the 23rd of July we will be holding the first of our, “Meet the Artist” sessions on Zoom!

This will be an opportunity to meet Sam, to learn more about the work that she does and to hear from her first hand on the positive impact that art can have. We will be sending out Art packs before the meeting, so that those who want to can take participate can make some art during the session. If you would like to join us, send and email to cards@rowanalba.org and we’ll send you the details. We hope to see you there!