The Pathways to Wellbeing Programme aimed to promote positive mental health and wellbeing through creative engagement with museums. Since its start in 2016, it has supported over 200 local people living with mental health issues, social isolation and homelessness.

The programme was recently awarded funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and from a new local partner, the St John’s Foundation, to continue and extend its ground-breaking work for a further three years (May 2019 – May 2022).

Pathways to Wellbeing saw local museums, the local Mental Health Trust, Creativity Works and support organisations working in partnership across the city, to offer safe and supportive museum-based creative sessions where people can come together to enjoy arts activities, develop new skills and engage with their local heritage sites.

The Holburne Museum carried out an independent evaluation of Pathways to Wellbeing 2016 to 2019.

The programme consisted of four different strands that participants could join depending on their needs:

The Gardener’s Lodge Art Group

The Gardener’s Lodge Art Group met weekly, offering creative opportunities for people who have been affected by homelessness and associated issues including mental health issues and social isolation.  The group provided a friendly and supportive space in which people could develop their arts skills, be creative and meet other people in a safe environment.

As part of the Pathways to Wellbeing project, the group was able to spend six week blocks at one of Bath Preservation Trust’s museums, at the Holburne Museum and at the American Museum & Gardens exploring the collections and creating their own artistic response. The group also got involved in lots of different art projects and exhibitions in Bath and the local area (including Bath Fringe Arts Festival and exhibitions at Bath Artists’ Studios).

Through these weekly sessions, the group aimed to support people to develop their confidence and self-esteem, their social skills and relationships plus build life-skills such as time organisation, planning, team work and communication. Participation and engagement in arts opportunities both within the museum and wider arts community promoted wellbeing and self-efficacy, and empowered participants.

The group was often facilitated by specialist artists who focus on teaching different skills and techniques.


FreshArt@ was an innovative partnership project that supported people with lived experience of serious mental health issues to create artwork in three Bath museums. FreshArt@ introduced participants (who were referred by NHS and community partners) to creativity and heritage in weekly art sessions.

FreshArt@ promoted positive wellbeing by enabling participants to connect with others, to learn something new and to take notice and get interested in heritage and art. The artwork created in the three museums has gone on to be displayed in various health care settings such as Hill View Lodge at The Royal United Hospital and Ward 4, a dementia assessment unit at St Martins Hospital. The new art work enlivens clinical settings for patients, staff and visitors.

Since 2016, Bath Preservation Trust, The Holburne Museum and The American Museum & Gardens have welcomed FreshArt@ participants to come and explore their collections and be inspired. Working in partnership has built important beneficial connections between health and social care services, museum settings and the arts.

IMAGE Peer Led Museums Group

IMAGE was a peer led museum art group for people with experience of mental health issues who are interested in working with local museums to promote positive mental health and well-being for all their visitors and the local communities surrounding them.

Being peer led means that participants worked with each other to draw on the different skills, strengths and knowledge which each person brings. Through this pathway, participants developed new skills and also knowledge of the heritage/cultural sector. The group’s aims were to:

  • Inspire: Museum collections, buildings and spaces offer creative inspiration
  • Reflect: Museum environments offer calm, quiet places to meet and work
  • Develop: Knowledge and skills through access to facilities and staff expertise
  • Share: Members will share their individual skills and strengths within the group
  • Articulate: Group members will have a ‘voice’ within museums
  • Collaborate: The group will work with museums to promote inclusion and well-being through enjoyment of the arts and creativity
  • Exhibit: Group members will share and celebrate their work in museum settings
  • Empower: Each individual will be empowered through their contribution to the group and to the wider museum communities
  • Have fun!!

A good example of what the group does is its design and production in 2019 of a pair of silk banners, inspired by the Museum of Bath Architecture. These stunning banners have been used on the railings outside the museum to draw attention to special events there.

Discover Museums: Pathways to Volunteering

Bath Preservation Trust has been involved in this structured volunteer induction scheme since 2017. For six weeks participants were paired with a trained museum mentor who supports them to complete creative research on an object or area of the museum collection that interests them.

This offered progression pathways for people who have already engaged with us through The Gardener’s Lodge Art Group and FreshArt@ projects. Through the programme it was hoped that participants would develop the confidence, knowledge and skills to become regular volunteers and develop transferable ‘back to work’ skills.

This scheme partnered with REMPLOY, a national organisation which supports those with disabilities (including experience of mental health issues) into sustainable paid employment. This partnership will help us to identify people who would benefit most from this mentored volunteering opportunity.

Pathways to Wellbeing partners are:

  • The Holburne Museum
  • American Museum & Gardens
  • The Andrew Brownsword Gallery, The Edge, University of Bath
  • Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health NHS Partnership Trust
  • Creativity Works