‘ArT1st’ was created in November 2019 by Professor Partha Kar to develop artistic peer support within the type 1 diabetes community, with a live event planned for June 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic put the event on hold. The lockdown adversely affected mental health so, to help lift the mood and reduce social isolation, the ArT1st team launched an online project for the community to send in art contributions. More than 150 were received from countries worldwide over eight weeks. There was much interaction on social media and many positive comments. Friendships developed and artistic collaborative projects resulted. The live event is still planned.
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The initial ArT1st idea was created in November 2019, with the formation of the ArT1st team, discussions and planning of the live ArT1st event (venue, funding/sponsorship and logistics) for June 2020. This was brought quickly to a halt because of COVID-19 in March 2020, as it was not safe to proceed with the live event.
To help lessen anxiety and social isolation due to COVID-19, the team decided to promote the project as an online daily event with an additional aim to provide peer support and encouragement through art therapy during Lockdown.
Discussions were held by email and Zoom meetings, with the online project launched on 1 April. The website (www.art1st.life) was set up to house all the contributions in a gallery, giving updates about the future live event plans, details of the ArT1st organising team and submission criteria. Social media channels were set up to allow art contributions to be showcased on a daily basis. On launch day, a message was sent out across all the social media platforms and promoted by the ArT1st team to promote the idea and encourage contributions. The ArT1st team shared videos of themselves and celebrities who helped support the initiative encouraging contributions from the artists. Volunteers from the team reviewed the contributions and wrote a small summary for each. There were four posts on all social media platforms daily. Contribution categories were; music, fashion, photography, craft and sculptures, poetry, dance and drama, and art.
Material of stunning quality and variety was showcased every day for two months, attracting interest and participation from people with diabetes of all ages and many backgrounds, as well as from their families and from the HCPs who work with them. The artworks covered a wide range of topics, including describing living with diabetes, artists’ diabetes journeys, living in social isolation, as well as racism, current affairs and abstract ideas. In total there were 167 contributions. On social media, Twitter gained 498 followers and 447 tweets, Facebook gained 1358 friends and on Instagram, 365 followers and 273 posts. ArT1st had contributions from children to adults, with the youngest aged 8 and the oldest having had diabetes for over 60 years. A live event is still planned, which will take place at a prestigious central London venue once it is safe to do so. This will feature some of the best visual material from the online version as an exhibition, and live performances of some of the poetry, music and dance. In the meantime, the organising team is pausing its work, but will continue to host the website and plan for the live event.
Sustainability and Spread
Industry support has been secured for the live event. The ArT1st team is committed to continue supporting and working for this initiative. If successful, the team would work to hold the live event on a regular basis. Relationships have been developed with many artists within the type 1 diabetes community who will help promote the live event, as well as support from the original celebrities. The social media sites will help with ongoing promotion. The team has collected data on contributions, social media and website visits, and members are writing up their experiences to share. They are also working on a book to encapsulate the contributions that were submitted during the Lockdown period as a legacy of the time. Any profits will be donated to diabetes charities, JDRF/Diabetes UK.
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