This November sees the 15th Annual Auction of artwork created by artists from Centrepieces Mental Health Arts Project, a registered charity based in Bexley. The event raises money to help keep the organisation running, with 50% of sales going to the artists who are members of Centrepieces, all of whom have experienced mental health problems. This year’s Auction is at the Meeting Place in the Orchards Shopping Centre in Dartford, on Saturday 14th November, from 12.30pm.

Centrepieces was founded in 1999 by a group of artists with mental health issues, living in Bexley and the surrounding areas. Originally established with a £5,000 Millennium Award from the National Lottery, Centrepieces was for many years supported by the Crayford Centre, which was part of the local mental health services. It moved in June 2014 to new premises in the Lodge at Hall Place in Bexley, financially supported by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust. Today, Centrepieces consists of around 100 artists, many of whom volunteer to help run the project. Centrepieces became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in Feb 2015 and is currently looking to fundraise to secure its longer term future.

Centrepieces exists to promote mental health recovery through the arts, creating opportunities for people to take part in art activities, and to exhibit and sell their work; it also tries to promote a better understanding of mental health in the wider public. With that aim in mind, the charity promotes public art in the local community, such as ‘The Worrier’ previously sited by the river Cray in Crayford Town Centre, and the ‘The Nest’ sculpture at Hall Place, projects which have been led by Centrepieces artists.

Members offering their art for auction have overcome severe mental health difficulties, largely by being empowered through artistic pursuits. Barbara Cotter acknowledges Centrepieces has helped her ‘lose myself in doing art [which] I find very relaxing. It takes my thoughts away [from my problems] and I’m very happy when a picture is finished.’ Georgina Bowen says her depression has been alleviated by her painting, revealing that ‘it
has been very therapeutic for me, and very beneficial for my health and wellbeing’, while Barbara Anne French’s art ‘fills up my time and via my paintings I am transported into another world. A happier one’. Joan Sher comments that ‘in times of stress and worry I find it quite uplifting splashing around with very bright colours’, while Trevor Whiting sums up the whole ethos of Centrepieces by observing, ‘working alongside such a diverse and friendly group of artists… is helping me become more confident in both my own ability as an artist and my self-esteem.’

This year’s Auction previews from Thursday 12th to the morning of Saturday 14 November, and visitors can make advanced bids for any work they are interested in buying, if unable to attend the event itself.