Churchill Was a Painter Too: Mental Health and the Arts in New York City

For now, I’m in New York for part of my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. I’m exploring the role of the arts in healthcare and my focus is on mental health, wellbeing, and social inclusion. Churchill was born on this day in 1874. Find out more about his life and his “bulldog spirit” here.

I’ve already engaged with some fantastic examples and conversations, for example yesterday, with members of Fountain House.

Fountain House was established in 1948 with the first ‘Clubhouse’ here in Manhattan. In 2014 the organisation was awarded the Hilton Humanitarian Prize for their work, dedicated to supporting people to recover their mental health through offering engagement in a range of skills development, education, socialising and some impressive employment programmes.

Here, Fountain House opens it’s doors to 350 New Yorkers every day, and has 1300 members at any one time. Clubhouses are an international movement and I wrote about my experience in a ‘diagnosis-free zone’ at in Jyvaskyla in Central Finland in June. There I discuss peer support models, clinical formulation, recovery, and the principles that underpin the work that contribute to its success.

Learn more about Fountain House and their work across the globe from their website, including the remarkable results of their endeavours.



Fountain House infographic
From the Fountain House website, https://www.fountainhouse.org/



I also visited Fountain House Gallery on 9th Avenue, where artists exhibit their works and are curated through partnerships with professional curators from cultural institutions around the city. Those who browse, may buy. There I met a lady and member of Fountain House who likes to work in the gallery. She asked me why I was here, and I told her about Churchill, and his painting, and his extremes of mood. She didn’t know he was into the arts or that he had his Black Dog. “You mean like manic depression, bipolar?”


“But he was a Prime Minister!” she said, eyes wide. “Yep!” I grinned.

What’s Happening?

I’m continuing the travelling part of Fellowship through to January, by talking with researchers and clinicians at New York University, Pace University, the Pratt Institute, and visiting practice examples. I’m also spending time with teams who deliver literacy and employment programmes to people who are incarcerated at Riker’s Island Prison Complex, where I am headed to participate next week.

My former employer, Director of Arts for Health in Manchester Clive Parkinson, is also in town so I will be looking to him for guidance and we’ll be swapping notes.

I invite you to stay tuned! Given my ‘on the road’ status, if I don’t manage to post many polished blogs over the next few weeks, I have an epic three-day journey by train all the way across the United States of America to San Francisco, to study my haul, read, learn and write. Once there, I’ll be heading to the University of California, Berkeley, to learn about research in the Psychology Department.

Please be welcome to get in touch, ask me anything, or to suggest programmes or people I should meet!

Kat completed her Clinical Psychology Doctorate at Lancaster University in 2013. She has worked in a range of settings, both clinically and as a researcher, most recently as a Lead Researcher at Arts for Health at MMU. Katherine also works in the NHS in Children’s Psychological Services. Kat has published her work and presented to a range of audiences, from health professionals, to artists, academics and entrepreneurs. Her work includes public engagement and gallery-based exhibitions.

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