Getting creative with the Men’s Group
in our latest project, the community team at Glasgow Science Centre had the incredible opportunity to unite their two passions, collaborating with a fantastic community group and immersing themselves in the beauty of nature.
The Hidden Gardens are situated in the heart of the southside of Glasgow and neighbour the renowned international arts venue, Tramway. The gardens bring together different ideas, cultures, beliefs, artworks, horticulture, religion, past and present. It was here we collaborated with The Men’s Group who meet once a week, all year round, led diligently by Dio Anemogiannis who was keen to invite the science centre community team along to start discussions about a creative collaboration.
The Transformative Power of Community
The Men’s Group was established in 2016 as a response to the lack of community programmes supporting vulnerable men in the south of Glasgow. The goal of the group has been “to address health inequalities, improve mental health and wellbeing, and enable participants to be more confident and socially connected.” (Dio Anemogiannis)
We spoke with the men, who were open and honest about their lives and backgrounds, and it became clear that meeting at The Hidden Gardens was a vital lifeline for a lot of them. Social interactions and regular meeting times offer the opportunity for the men to nurture friendships and help alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneliness. As well as making trusted friends with shared interests, they gather in one of the most beautiful outside spaces in Glasgow. We all know that spending time in nature has a calming effect on the mind and body. Simply being outside can lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone), helping individuals manage stress more effectively. Furthermore, studies have shown that exposure to nature and the outdoors can boost the immune system, making individuals less susceptible to illnesses.
The group of men have enjoyed many creative sessions over the years, with visiting experts and artists and have learned some impressive skills along the way. Amongst other things, the group participates in glass painting, pottery, museum visits, chair yoga, mindfulness, gardening, music, cooking, quizzes, board games, creative writing, archery and filmmaking (I think I could go on!). On our first visit to their meeting space, the Boilerhouse, we were privileged to see examples of their artwork which helped us to agree on how the project should progress. Collectively, we decided the project would be a Glasgow Science Centre community-curated tower exhibit. This would give them the opportunity to showcase their artwork whilst celebrating their love of the gardens and its positive effect on their health and wellbeing.
The Tower Exhibit: A Creative Journey Inspired by Nature
The immediate environment and the historical buildings that surround The Hidden Gardens heavily influenced the exhibit, which is mobile and stands 2m tall. The Tower consists of six boxes and six printed panels. The group, made up of all ages, were truly inspired by the trees and plants in the gardens as well as the beautiful pieces of public art that sit dotted throughout the grounds. The red brick of the tall chimney that continues to tower over Tramway has found its place in the exhibit. Each box tells a slightly different story and the different materials used by different hands make for a rich and textural art exhibit. Every week the PVA glue, acrylic paint and papier mâché were in use and something wonderful was created out of nothing. The themes on display are; the four seasons of the gardens, the history of Tramway, the gardens as an event space, preindustrial trams, the sculptures in the gardens and the men’s group itself in the Boilerhouse.
This project, which has exceeded our expectations, has reinforced our belief in the transformative power of community engagement and the profound importance of spending time outdoors amongst nature. As we move forward, we are determined to continue nurturing these passions and to share these enriching experiences with others, leaving a positive legacy in the hearts of all who participate. Overall, integrating social interactions and nature-based activities into lives can have a profound positive impact on health and well-being, contributing to a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. It's important to encourage and promote these activities to support the physical, emotional, and mental health of society as a whole.
This blog post by Sheena McDonald is adapted from an article by Glasgow Science Centre that first appeared in Glasgow Times in September 2023. You can learn more about the Men's Group Tower by visiting the project page.