Kerri Louise Mountford went through an uncertain period after the Wellington scheme she moved to from Shrewsbury’s Redwoods Centre closed after just two weeks.
The 45-year-old then moved to the Willows in December 2016 and the stability she has enjoyed since is helping her to forge ahead with the artistic flair she has been shaping and refining since she was very young.
“My love of art started when I was 8-years-old,” Kerri explains. “We learnt to pick up a pencil and then draw circles using our wrist action and it just stuck with me. It’s a very, very deep subject and there are so many different techniques – in fact, people come up with their own techniques all of the time and they become famous for it.”
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There are seven residents at the Willows which is a 24-hour supported housing scheme for people with severe and enduring mental health issues. Kerri herself manages a number of mental health conditions including schizophrenia but is starting to blossom after setting up the fortnightly art group around three months ago.
Kerri, who has a corridor of her own artwork lining the entrance to her ground-floor flat, went on: “I’m getting better than what I was but I still have good days and bad days. The bad days are terrible and drag me back down but my art helps me to focus and I feel like I’ve been to church after I’ve taken one of my classes. You have a picture in your head and your art helps get that out.”
Support worker Andrea French said: “We have always known Kerri has a creative flair – she has so many pictures on the walls of her flat that really showcase her potential and love for art. She explained the many ventures she has accomplished including clothes design and her own range of jewellery and it was in a discussion with my colleague Rupinder Mann that Kerri was encouraged to start an art group at the Willows.”
Not only do customers from the Willows attend the art classes but also people from Bromford’s other nearby general needs scheme Spencer Court too. To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Kerri hosted a special group art session which focused on expressionism and aimed to inspire people to view mental health conditions in a more positive light.
Such has been the success of the classes, Kerri and her support workers are now in talks with the local Methodist Church to see if the art group can be extended to the wider community.
“The local church through one of our customers at Spencer Court has already raised some money which they will be contributing towards materials and we will now be putting in a YouCan bid for match funding too so that Kerri has all of the geometric sets, paints, pencils and general tools and equipment that she needs,” Andrea said.
“The art classes are having a really positive impact on residents across both schemes and Kerri and her talent for art has really shone through since moving here. She has an amazing approach towards the people who attend and encourages them to take their own approach and offers guidance and praise. We’ve all witnessed Kerri’s art group and have been blown away by her ideas and how she explains different concepts regarding art.
“Away from the art she is now managing her finances and tenancy well and has made lots of friends which is also helping her manage her underlying mental health conditions.”
Kerri added: “The whole idea of the group is to give people the opportunity to express themselves, without fear of judgement. It gives me a lot of satisfaction seeing people emotionally express their feelings through pen to paper and so far I’ve been really impressed with the other residents’ enthusiasm and dedication – it is really exciting when one of them makes a breakthrough.”
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