Art in an Envelope

Take a closer look at the project and creativity which inspired over 600 artworks and an exhibition at London's Southbank Centre

By Google Arts & Culture

Southbank Centre

A participant artwork from Art by Post (2021)

At the height of the first Covid-19 lockdown, Southbank Centre created Art by Post to engage those most isolated by social distancing measures, with a particular emphasis on reaching older adults living with dementia and other chronic health conditions.

Art by Post booklet covers

Southbank Centre worked with 17 artists to create 11 creative activity booklets which were sent out in the post. 

Each booklet has up to 5 activities aimed to spark creativity and imagination and can be done at home or in a care setting, using everyday objects.

Artwork by an Art by Post participant (2021)

Included in the packs are Freepost envelopes, encouraging participants to share their artwork and creative responses with the Southbank Centre

Map of Art by Post participants

40,000 booklets were sent out in 2020-21 and the Art by Post community has grown to 4,500 people, aged 18-103, spanning the UK from Dover to Aberdeen. Many are supported in the project by friends, family members and health care professionals who are also invited to join in.

In addition to the posted booklets, online and telephone sessions brought the Art by Post community together to meet each other and the artists. These sessions offered social interactions between participants based across the UK, creating a sense of belonging and unity.

Participant quote

Art by Post addresses the significant digital divide in the UK which meant that many vulnerable and isolated people would not be able to access the digital creative initiatives that had been created by many cultural organisations in response to the pandemic.

Photography by Elena Gallina

Evaluation undertaken after the first phase of the project showed that approximately 60% of those taking part are living alone; 88% are living with one more long term health condition.

Residents looking at poetry

The project is grounded in partnerships, including Southbank Centre's strategic partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing, along with 13 delivery and 156 referral partners, ranging from care homes, prisons, housing associations and community organisations.

Art by Post Installation
My Pledge, 2021
An Art by Post participant, 2021
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NASP’s support also enabled Southbank Centre to bring together an exhibition of some of the Art by Post participants' artworks which opened at Southbank Centre in September 2021 and then went on to tour to 5 other venues across the country.

Photography by Elena Gallina, Eoin Carey, Kate Elliott, Image courtesy of Southbank Centre

In addition, NASP and Southbank Centre were also able to bring Art by Post’s powerful message about the positive role of creativity in people’s lives, their health and wellbeing to billboards and bus stops across the UK.

Art by Post Installation on the Southbank (2021)

12 photographers were commissioned to take doorstep photography of 52 participants from across the UK. These featured in over 60 public spaces throughout the UK as well as in outdoor displays on the exhibition tour.

‘Since starting the Art by Post and putting words down on paper, especially the poems, it seems to be much easier, you have brought out a part of me that has laid hidden for virtually all my life, so for that alone, I thank you.’


Credits: Story

Explore the full range of downloadable booklets and audio descriptions alongside toolkit videos on how to make the most of them here

Film shot and edited by James Kinsman

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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