Business Spotlight: Impact Arts

22 May 2024

Tell us all about Impact Arts. What is it that you do?

Essentially Impact Arts transforms people’s lives through participation in creative activities. 

We provide opportunities for creative engagement throughout people’s life journeys, from children to young people, families and parents, through to older people. To us it is the process of taking part in creative activity rather than the outcome alone when people’s lives are transformed. Taking part in creative projects is often the initial hook as it’s fun, therapeutic and often very social. From there we build people’s confidence and empower them to achieve their potential.

This year will be our 30th year in operation and our work is delivered across central Scotland with key projects taking place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, North Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire. We have a focus on reaching those people who need our support the most. By that we mean people who are living with the effects of poverty, people living in areas of disadvantage and those who are under-represented and under supported.

In Edinburgh, we have two year round programmes, our creative Youth Hub at Montgomery Street Lane, for young people aged 12 – 25 years old and Craft Café for older people in Viewpoint Care Home. We also deliver a range of art therapy and creative outdoor play projects for children, short creative projects with secondary school pupils who are struggling to engage with school and a number of partnership projects with organisations like Historic Environment Scotland. 

Why is creativity so important when engaging with underprivileged communities?

Our goal is to make participation in arts and creative activities accessible, inclusive and welcoming to all, no matter how much experience you have or how skilled you think you are at art. To us, the most important part is the process of taking part in creative activity. 

Many of the people we work with have grown up with no or very little access to the arts. 

People living in under privileged communities often face multiple barriers to progressing positively with their lives and what we see every day is people for whom traditional education or support has not been effective. That might be a young person who has disengaged from school and left with no qualifications or an older person who is isolated in their community and suffering poor mental health. In using a creative approach, we recognise that it is going to take an alternative approach to turn that young person back onto learning or to build the trust of that older person so that we can work with them and we see every day that working with artists in a studio, doing something that is practical, therapeutic and fun is a hugely successful way of doing this.

Our goal is to make participation in arts and creative activities accessible, inclusive and welcoming to all, no matter how much experience you have or how skilled you think you are at art.

You’ve been running since 1994. What are some of your ultimate highlights?

For me it’s always the stories from the people whose lives our work has touched upon that stick in my memory.

One of our young people who had been involved in a number of our creative projects described their time with us as a safe space between school and higher education when they could creatively explore their identity and future goals in a supportive environment before going on to take up a place on a fashion design degree course. Their words make me so proud of what the Impact Arts team achieve:

“I can guarantee that you will not only leave feeling worthy of achieving something special within the creative field, you will also exit with a positive mantra knowing you have been guided by one of the best, informative teams that want to see you shine the brightest you can, in preparation for your future as a young adult.”

I also received an email out the blue last week from someone who took part in an Impact Arts project nearly 15 years ago. She described how she had been bereaved and homeless aged 17 and was really struggling but that her work with Impact Arts gave her a foundation to show her creative abilities and to help and understand people and she is now a housing support worker.

These are the stories that really stick and give you conviction that the arts are truly life changing and important.

If you had a magic wand, what would you like Impact Arts to do in the future?

I feel very strongly that creative engagement, or whatever term you prefer to use – participatory arts, community arts etc, is fundamental to ensuring our people and communities enjoy healthy, fulfilling and social lives and would love to see greater value placed upon this area of creative work. There are so many opportunities for artists to forge viable and interesting careers in the arts, using their skills and talent to support our people and communities.

Over the years Impact Arts have delivered a number of Artist’s Mentoring Programmes, training programmes that equip new arts graduates with the skills and experience to forge successful careers in the participatory arts field. We’ve also delivered CPD training for non-arts professionals in using creative therapeutic practice to support different groups of people. I see how impactful these programmes are and how they can set early career artists on their career paths and so I’d love for us to be able to deliver more of this work and for participatory artists to be truly valued for their contribution to society in Scotland.

Why did you decide to become a Business Member with Creative Edinburgh?

Impact Arts has had an Edinburgh base for the past 17 years and yet we’re not as well known here as we are in the west of Scotland. We love working in partnership with others and are keen to grow our own networks across the city. We have new projects starting in the city in the next year and are keen to spread the word about the work we are doing and the opportunities that exist for artists and creatives to get involved either to work with us or to take part in our projects. 

What is, in your opinion, the best thing about Edinburgh’s creative community?

There is just so much going on in the arts and creative sector in Edinburgh right now, it certainly doesn’t stand still!

There’s a huge amount of exciting grass roots work taking place alongside the more established arts and cultural organisations and there’s an increasing recognition for Edinburgh’s community arts organisations which makes for a really interesting mix. The community is very open to working together and the Impact Arts team have undertaken a vast number of partnership projects with all sorts of arts, heritage and cultural organisations and venues across the city. I’m very passionate about Edinburgh’s creative community but then I’m a little biased as I studied for my MA and MFA at Edinburgh College of Art, I am on the Board of Edinburgh College where their Creative Industries are doing fantastic work with their students and I’m an Edinburgh resident myself.

Impact Arts will be delivering their summer CashBack to the Future creative youth programme at the City Art Centre and will be looking for 30 young people aged 14-24 years old to take part. Find out more here!