Spotlight on…Art Therapy and Wellbeing in Primary Schools project

Dr Gerald Moore and his son painting
Image: Dr Gerald Moore and his son painting. Photo credits: Gerald Moore Family Archives.

Published 6 April 2021


We spoke to Katie Harris, Gallery Manager of the Gerald Moore Gallery, about this new project funded by Mottingham Big Local Refocused.

Q Hi Katie, please tell us about this new project!

A ‘Art Therapy and Wellbeing in Primary Schools’ aims to support primary aged children with their emotional wellbeing through art therapy sessions led by a HCPC registered art therapist. These sessions take place both in school and at the gallery using the Gerald Moore Gallery’s exhibitions and collection as a stimulus to engage children in conversation and explore their feelings.

Teaching staff will also be supported and invited to take part in practical wellbeing art activities and CPD training sessions on ‘Using Art for Wellbeing’ to support their emotional wellbeing and their students.

The project begins in April 2021 and will run for three years working with three different primary schools in the Mottingham area. As a result, we hope to tackle some of the issues around Health and Wellbeing today and benefit the whole school community by working with pupils and teachers simultaneously.


Q Can you tell us a bit more about art therapy?

A Art therapy uses art media as a means of expression and communication to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing. It is particularly effective in supporting those who find verbal communication difficult and is rooted in the belief that creative expression can foster healing and mental wellbeing.

An art therapy group provides a safe space for young people going through personal or family difficulties to explore their feelings. By supporting children at a young age to develop self-awareness and greater resilience to mental health challenges in the future.


Q How did this project come about?

A The Gerald Moore Gallery is a contemporary art gallery, set within Eltham College, that supports the local community through exhibitions and events. In 2019, we began a project with Rangefield Primary School, offering free art therapy sessions using artworks from the gallery’s exhibitions. The children were able to express themselves, build confidence and friendships through art therapy. When the opportunity to extend the outreach of this project came about through Mottingham Big Local Refocused we connected with other local primary schools and created the ‘Art Therapy and Wellbeing in Primary Schools’ project.


Q What are the advantages?

A Each school can refer the students they feel would benefit the most from the sessions with each child receiving 14 weeks of group art therapy. Many teachers and parents are aware that children have been negatively affected by the Covid pandemic and are seeing increased levels of anxiety, challenging behaviour or difficulties coping with loss and trauma in young people. This project will aim to support the emotional difficulties these children face and provide a secure environment for them to express their emotions.
This project also supports teaching staff at each school. There are growing concerns for the wellbeing and mental health of teachers who have been impacted by stress of the pandemic on education, staff shortages and lack of funding.  By providing practical wellbeing workshops and training for teachers to use in their classrooms, we are ensuring emotional support filters down to their pupils and best practice becomes embedded in the school culture.


Q Which schools will be involved?

A We are working with three local primary schools across three years starting with Mottingham Primary School from April to December 2021. Followed by St Vincent’s Primary and Castlecombe Primary through to 2023.


Q We understand there will be an exhibition at the Gerald Moore Gallery at the end of the project?

A In 2023 the project will culminate with a free public art exhibition on the importance of ‘Art for Health and Wellbeing’ bringing together some of the works and findings from the schools who participated in the project to promote this message to a wider community.

We want to promote the important role Art can have for our health and wellbeing and encourage everyone to take the time to participate in a creative activity either by making or viewing Art.

We hope the exhibition will encourage the local community to take part in some of our free offers and visit and we look forward to seeing you all there!








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