Therapy through creativity

Maggie McAndrews, of Balby, is revamping Gallery 12A into a creative space to show off artowrk from the region's artists, such as the one she is holding. Picture: Andrew Roe
Maggie McAndrews, of Balby, is revamping Gallery 12A into a creative space to show off artowrk from the region's artists, such as the one she is holding. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Doncaster’s arts scene is to get a new injection of creative talent as a town centre gallery is reopened – by a nurse!

Inspirational mental health nurse-turned-artist, Maggie McAndrews, is about to re-launch the empty Gallery 12A on South Parade as a creative space and showcase for the region’s most compelling artists.

Renamed as The Mac Gallery, the Georgian Grade II-listed building will not only play host to public workshops and exhibitions by Doncaster’s thriving arts community – but it will also provide therapeutic aid to some of the area’s most vulnerable people.

The mum-of-one from Balby was inspired to take over the gallery after reaping extraordinary results with her current project, Creative Art As Therapy – her innovative arts service to aid people feeling isolated after being diagnosed with illness.

Maggie said: “I’m really excited about the gallery. The Doncaster Arts Quarter is already established and I think The Mac Gallery will bring a new buzz and a vibrancy to the scene – especially with its great location.

Maggie, a nurse for over 30 years, launched the pilot scheme earlier this year to help people with physical and mental difficulties – including depression – gain confidence and communication skills through art and craft.

Working in her participants’ homes and in care centres, Maggie devises hands-on art projects to suit each individual and uses the activities as a means of encouraging self-expression.

And already, many of her participants say they are having immeasurable improvements in their quality of life, thanks to her infectious enthusiasm and passion for art.

Now Maggie also plans to use parts of the gallery to display and sell work made by her therapy clients, which she believes will further boost their confidence and improve quality of their recovery.

Maggie added: “There are lots of possibilities for the space, and as well promoting artists, I think giving my therapy participants space to show their work, will really provide a boost to them. You get the most incredible kick when someone buys your work – even if you have no idea why it appealed to them. I think if I can help offer that to my participants then that will really help them. They inspired this.”

Maggie, 50, recently chose to pursue art when she was made redundant after a career largely spent nursing stroke victims and then the terminally ill in a hospice, after stints at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary and Tickhill Road Hospital.

Sensing she had a hidden artistic side, she finally decided to investigate her creative talents when her dad died some years ago.

Nursing by day and painting by night, Maggie enrolled on a university evening courses, where she gained a First Class BA Honours degree in Art and Design.

She hopes the Mac Gallery will now provide the perfect creative outlet for both her therapy participants, and for Doncaster and Pontefract’s creative community.

Situated next door to the Salutation Inn, the gallery is ideally placed within the town’s up-and-coming Arts Quarter, and, with its regular workshops, will give a new social dimension to the arts scene.

Maggie also has ambitions to bring exhibitors and visitors from further afield in through her doors.

Maggie said: “I want people to know that there is life – and art – further north than London. Why not have national aims? I’d like to bring groups from the south of England up here to see what we can do. After all, Doncaster is bidding for city status. Let the south come and see us for a change.”

The Mac Gallery is expected to open towards the end of the month.

To inquire about holding art workshops or exhibiting work at The Mac Gallery, or for more information about Creative Art As Therapy, or to be referred to the service, contact Maggie on 01302 590005 or visit http://www.creativeartastherapy.co.uk