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Community founded as art transforms the lives of once isolated

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 January 2013

Seven Dials Art Outreach Group working with Hampstead School of Art. Pictured is Stella Cherfs. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Seven Dials Art Outreach Group working with Hampstead School of Art. Pictured is Stella Cherfs. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A group of creative thinkers who have found their voice through art have gone public with their first exhibition.

Members of Seven Dials Art Club, who are aged between 50 and 90, have met in the Covent Garden Community Centre once a week to paint, draw and experiment with art for the last five years.

But now the club has staged its inaugural exhibition at Hampstead School of Art, in Kidderpore Avenue, Hampstead, which works in partnership with the art group.

Anne Lesley, 66, who is retired and lives in Odhams Walk, Covent Garden, said: “The art classes help us to flourish. It is the best two hours of my week.

“I left school just before I was 15 and wanted to go to art school but my father told me I had to go out and get a job.

“I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush until I was 63 and now I am finally doing something I have always wanted to do.

“It does a lot for my mental attitude. I’m not a red-hot artist. I’m just an ordinary person.”

Isabel Langtry, principal of Hampstead School of Art, attends once a month to offer the group some tips and guidance.

“They were an isolated group of individuals before and now they describe themselves as a community group which is really quite life transforming at that age,” she said.

“The social aspect is very important, underpinned by a knowledge of art and a knowledge of how to use materials and how to give people the confidence to use them.

“What we can offer is for them to find a voice in a completely different way to what people have done during their lives.

“So they have gone completely public on their abilities here and are actually exhibiting their work, which is extraordinary.”

Janet Locke, 73, who is retired and lives in West End Lane, West Hampstead, spoke of the importance of the weekly club.

“It’s nice to catch up with a social group,” she said. “We chat, we paint, we draw and we are supportive of each other. It’s very good and we would miss it enormously if we didn’t do it.

“You surprise yourself with the things you can do.”

The club also motivates members to experience art outside of the class and many members feel inspired to visit museums and art galleries.

Stella Cherfs, 88, of Covent Garden, a yoga teacher for the last 66 years, said: “A lot of the people who live in the area wouldn’t do anything like this if they didn’t have somewhere to come.

“It’s like a community. They enjoy it and they develop enormously.It’s a sort of trigger point to going to museums and art galleries which they wouldn’t have done before.”

The exhibition ran from January 5 to 15. To find out more about Seven Dials Art Club, contact Hampstead School of Art on 020 7794 1439 or email hsanw3@aol.com.

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