Arts education space crafts brighter future for community
September 21, 2021
A leading North East arts education organisation has expanded into additional premises in one of Sunderland's cultural hubs to deliver community workshops on a larger scale.
MBC Arts Wellbeing, which provides specialist arts workshops and free courses to communities, has moved to The Place, in Sunniside, as it required additional space to offer engagement programmes to a wider audience in a covid-safe environment.
Founded in 2017 by ceramics artist Mark Burns Cassell, MBC Arts began life at 31 Norfolk Street - which the business still occupies - where he transformed the listed building into a studio for his own ceramics, as well as space for other artists and community workshops.
The not-for-profit business has now grown into a hub for artistic and cultural excellence and has created a real sense of community in the Sunniside quarter of Sunderland City Centre, hosting regular courses such as ceramics, glass making, flower arranging, soap making, candle making and diffuser workshops.
Now run by a team of seven, MBC Arts Wellbeing is renting a large gallery space at The Place on Atheneaum Street - a stylish office complex including six refurbished Grade II listed buildings.
Lesley Dixon, operations director at MBC Arts Wellbeing, joined the team in 2019 after a long and distinguished career as a deputy head teacher in education. She said: "During these extremely challenging times, we wanted a larger space so we could have a covid safe environment for our learners, as we're still keeping some restrictions in place to ensure everyone feels comfortable and safe when they come out into the community.
"The new space is fabulous. Its big, it's airy, it's clean and very high spec. The environment is professional, and it's accessible for all. We're looking forward to expanding our course offering so that we can welcome the community in to learn new skills, which they can implement as a hobby, or they may choose to go down the employment root."
The team at MBC Arts Wellbeing work hard to secure grants from a range of funders to provide new educational opportunities within the community, with the hopes of inspiring people's creative talents through culturally enriching experiences that support the mental health and wellbeing of residents across the North East.
Lesley added: "There's a buzz within the community coming back in. It's a lifeline for some, as they can now have face-to-face communication with others and form friendships while learning new skills.
"We want to be a key landscape in the grassroots of cultural activity in our local community. That's what we're all about. Supporting the wellbeing needs of local people through culture and arts and crafts."
Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "We're proud to support MBC Arts Wellbeing and the work the team do within the community.
"Providing Sunderland residents with transferable workplace skills, as well as supporting their wellbeing needs is extremely important, and The Place is the perfect location to host such workshops and courses to offer educational and feel-good opportunities."
For more information about MBC Arts Wellbeing, visit: https://www.mbcartswellbeing.com/