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Posted by portugalpress on May 04, 2017
Faro exhibition at IPDJ
Albufeira exhibition
Isobel and Sovereign Director Nigel Anteney-Hoare at the Portimão exhibition

I have had the great privilege of organising the Algarve’s first Secondary Schools Art Prize on behalf of the non-profit charity, the Sovereign Art Foundation.

The Foundation, established in 2003, promotes emergent artists through contemporary art prizes and raises funds to help underprivileged children through art programmes as a means of education, rehabilitation and therapy.

The School Prize, launched by the Foundation in 2012, aims to inspire, encourage and reward young artists in the community and to celebrate the importance of art in the education system. These student competitions are now held in Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa!

The Algarve’s 20 finalists’ work has been exhibited around the Algarve and will be auctioned in May, with half the funds raised going to the artists and half to the chosen charity, APEXA. I was relieved that I was not a judge as the standard of work received was incredibly high. However, I read every entrant’s vision as an artist and the inspiration for their work and was moved by their effort and sentiments which indicated how important art is in their lives.

The participants are aged from 16 to 19, the ‘teen’ years, a time when emotions run high as adolescents are caught between childhood and adulthood. Some students said they use art as a way to escape, to be free, to be imaginative and express themselves in a way that is not possible in another form.

Many want their work to inspire others, to leave their mark, to influence and contribute to a better world. They use it to convey their feelings, reflect their dreams and ideas, and to create something different and unique that shows a little bit of themselves whilst stimulating thought and emotions in others. They felt proud and fulfilled by the work submitted to our competition – and so they should! For the Sovereign Art Foundation to provide the opportunity for students to share their art has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience to all involved in the project.

Since 2003, the Foundation has raised over US$5 million and their projects show how important art therapy is. Their programmes help orphaned and street children to have fun, gain confidence, build self-esteem, learn and advocate child rights, through art, working in remote villages in Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia and Nepal to provide materials, training for instructors, shelter, food, healthcare and education.

In Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the Foundation supports disadvantaged children and their families for the recovery of the whole person through fun and recreational art programmes.

In the Middle East and India, workshops are held to help refugees, orphans and children with special needs to heal from the suffering caused by war, pain and loss.

Art therapy as psychotherapy has long been recognised and used all over the world to help people who suffer from illness, trauma, disabilities or who need help in their daily lives. Therapists are able to analyse the progression of the work and the changes in patient’s verbal communications, helping patients to better deal with life’s challenges and improve personal development.

With young children, drawings can provide information on the child’s development as well as giving the therapist clues as to the child’s state of mind whilst working in a safe environment. The children are able to communicate their experiences without using words.

With adolescents, art therapy enables them to safely express their feelings and explore their identities. It builds their self-esteem and confidence, providing them with the opportunity to manually work with different materials. To physically mould some clay, to be free to throw paint around or simply work intrinsically or methodically on a piece of art is satisfying and stimulating, especially in the digital world of today.

Adolescents can be sensitive about their image and the teen years can be challenging as they may struggle with their identity, feeling pressure from society, peers and family to look and behave a certain way. They experience first love and possibly heartbreak. It can be a confusing time! Therefore, art therapy with adolescents is particularly effective as they are able to show and share their emotions and build on their social skills using art as language, releasing stress and tapping into their creativity whilst maintaining control. Equally, this type of therapy is less intimidating than going to a psychologist.

However, it is not only the young that benefit from art therapy. Work with the elderly has been very successful and is particularly effective with Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers. As the cognitive function of dementia patients declines progressively, the art allows them to creatively promote self-awareness and encourages memory retrieval and intellectual stimulation.

Motor and cognitive skills are encouraged and the art provides a hobby, relieves anxiety and possibly depression thus improving the individual’s physiological and mental state allowing them to feel accomplished. Sessions increase communication and socialisation thus lessening feelings of loneliness often found with the elderly.

Even if you have no talent for art, you can create beautiful pictures with the latest trend, adult colouring books! Many people use them as a form of relaxation, to get away from daily life stresses. Fine motor skills are improved and the gentle colouring rhythmic actions stimulate the brain, help to slow down heart rate and respiration, and loosen muscles.

Everyone has their own interpretation of what art is but there is no doubt it can preserve experiences and help people to heal. It is never too late to grab a paintbrush or some pencils and get creative.

My grandmother started painting in her late 60s deriving great pleasure from it and the whole family has been left with some wonderful paintings to remember her by. So, try some art therapy on yourself and you may well be surprised what a rewarding and satisfying experience it can be.

Congratulations to all the participants of the Art Prize – I am so proud of them all!

So now you know ...

For more information on the Sovereign Art Foundation visit

By Isobel Costa

Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.