An exultation, an expression of joy, a road less travelled. Art and nature combine at the new contemporary Devon Sculpture Park
The first time I visited Devon Sculpture Park I got lost. Although their web site does give clear instructions on how to find your way through Haldon Forest, if this is unchartered territory a navigator alongside you probably helps. The rough entrance driveway and stumps of a recently felled plantation of Conifers equally adds to the sense of uncertainty and impending gloom. I had come here to look at the sculpture and also the Capability Brown Parkland. To my knowledge I cannot think of any other Brownian landscape that hosts contemporary sculpture. I was intrigued on both counts. We have several interesting sculpture parks in the West Country and many of the major gardens have regular displays of outdoor sculpture, our area is a rich and fertile ground of skilled exponents of this genre.
After the bumpy drive in the view to the east opens up, and any impending gloom lifts. Across the sloping fields the view is of the Exe Estuary. Very large majestic Cedars appear as you round the corner. A small 18th century chapel set alongside sheep pastures and gently curving fields suddenly begins to offer that sense of a classic English parkland, the kind that Capability was renowned for. I now wanted to explore, I wanted to see how a modern sculpture park with aspirations to demonstrate natural climate solutions in action could get its message across. The displays, some of which are intellectually challenging, are placed in and around the Parkland and concern themselves with the problems we face now with climate change and the destruction of our world. The Sculpture Park in its 120 acres has set out to face this challenge by developing expertise in rewilding. With selected animals grazing what was once manicured and artificially controlled, they can find a healthy relationship with the surrounding nature and wildlife. For me a refreshing change from other locations I could mention where gardens can sometimes feel over contrived. In the parkland Alpacas graze alongside 2 strains of Welsh mountain sheep, Tordu and Torwyn. These are conservation grazers which help to gradually make the parkland a more naturalistic and nature friendly garden. When the park and gardens were purchased by Philip and Cara Letts 6 years ago the original Brownian lakes were covered in pondweed. This has now been eradicated by introducing grass carp, a fish which feeds on the pond weed.
"Creative Minds ethos is that Creativity is an innate ability that we all possess, we believe it is important that we enable our participants to embrace their creativity and enjoy the creative process regardless of the results. It’s about having fun, being in the moment and exploring our creative side. As artists we truly believe that there is a creative side in all of us, and that connecting with it brings huge therapeutic benefits and a positive impact on our wellbeing. We focus on the therapeutic benefits of creativity. As Creative Minds artists we are trained to deliver art sessions that are accessible and empowering to all, our focus is always on the enjoyment of the creative process and not the outcome, which is so important in today’s outcome driven society. Many of our artists are inspired by nature throughout their practice and this then lends itself to some amazing natural and multi sensory sessions for the participants."
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A standard definition for art is 'art is emotion'. It should therefore be the case that art can and perhaps should affect our emotional wellbeing. Hopefully positively.
At Devon Sculpture Park we want to foster this link. We have double the motivation: firstly evidence supports that people de-stress in museums and galleries but also there is a sizeable movement around improving our wellbeing through 'time in nature'. As a leading UK Rewilding centre we specialise in the wellbeing of land and wildlife. The parkland is mesmerising.
We are all about 'art in nature'. Mamhead Park (South) was designed for it. The evidence is everywhere - with endless, mesmerising sea views framed so magically by Capability Brown, connected via a tunnel from the ice house all the way to the sea.
The Robert Adams Orangery has a dome that makes you giddy when you stare up at it. The Lake House reflects calmy off the Capability Brown lake. Rowing boats float among fish and birdlife.
Dozens of benches and chairs have been painstakingly positioned to promote sitting and relaxing; taking in the 'art in nature' while detoxing. After all, we have to live up to the inspiring engraving on one of our ancient pillars: 'Et in Arcadia ego' which translates to 'I am in paradise'.
Join us. The Capability Brown gardens and inaugural 'ART WILDED' exhibition, are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am - 4pm. Adults £12, children under 12 £6.
Every Wednesday we celebrate #WellbeingWednesday. We offer a freeafternoon Wellbeing walk for sculpture park visitors, meeting at The Terraces at 2pm. The short guided walk is designed to help us renew and reconnect taking in the art, gardens, vistas and waterways.
Companies, charities and healthcare organisations can bring team members for a few hours out. If you're a Wellbeing counsellor bring clients and run sessions outside or in our therapy rooms.
To arrange a Wellbeing visit contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our website: https://devonsculpturepark.org/
Given its position on a busy hospital site, Sobell House Hospice in Oxford introduces a remarkable amount of contact with nature for those patients who find it helpful. Thanks to an unusual fundraising event, a new extension currently under construction will provide the opportunity for even more, and in a rather special way.
Visiting the hospice in the weeks before Christmas, a time when few gardens are at their most welcoming, it was good to see the conservatory at Sobell House being used by patients and families as a place to talk. Extending out into one the small gardens and furnished with well-tended houseplants, there’s a sense of being surrounded and supported by nature even when it’s too cold to sit outside.
The doors of the well-equipped music room open on to the same garden. Here, music therapist Tom Crook helps patients to write their own songs – recording them on CDs to share with friends and family. For patients who use nature for inspiration, the garden is close at hand. Hannah, an art therapist supported by Sobell House Charity, also helps them to explore their creativity, often taking nature as a starting point.
With ongoing pressures on our health and social care systems, now is the time to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing. Rachel Massey, Arts & Wellbeing Coordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, explains more.
Wellbeing is something that affects us all, and thanks to an influx of self-help guides, courses and retreats on offer, wellbeing has become a bit of a buzzword! The hype is justified. Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem; obesity levels are on the rise; and social isolation affects many, our ageing population in particular. The time has come to recognise how important it is to look after our mental and physical health.
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