What is Starting with Art


Starting with Art is an art therapy based programme with three key partners: an art therapy trainee, a care setting supporting older people and those living with dementia, and Ben Uri. Incorporating artworks into art therapy training is unique to the Ben Uri placement. Thirty diverse artworks from the collection provide a stimulus to the trainee’s art therapy work, and have been carefully selected across a range of criteria including colour and genre. Trainees also conduct ongoing evaluations, qualitatively observing the impact of their work, noticing the influence of the artworks as participants select those images they’re most moved by.


Established in 2014, Starting with Art supports ten trainees annually across Hertfordshire and Roehampton universities, with plans to upscale nationally within the next three years. Each trainee is placed with a care or community setting for the continuous duration of their placement, working on site with that partner organisation for ten months. This enables them to offer free group and 1:1 art therapy sessions to those who will most benefit from them. 
















The programme responds to a lack of emotional and wellbeing support within an underfunded health and social care sector, whilst also answering a growing need for universities to find trainee placement opportunities. In turn, the Gallery is able to meet it’s charitable objective; actively using the collection to achieve the greatest public benefit.


To ensure this time spent together enjoying the collection leaves some legacy, trainees are also encouraged to share the complementary Ben Uri programme Ways into Art website. Support for care staff in accessing these pre-prepared resources and training tutorials turns their experience and time investment into skills, offering a way for the Ben Uri benefit to remain long after the placement concludes or over the summer break. 


For 2020-21, Ben Uri is broadening the Starting with Art offer to include essential support for care staff as we deal with the ongoing impact of Covid-19.



Testimonials — trainees and community partners

Feedback from recent trainees and community partners is used to develop the programme, ensuring it works for all involved.



“…clients were really drawn
to this beautiful image, it had many shapes and colours to it and innocence 
about it.”





“ The musicality of the colours and the different levels in the elements made this a fascinating and deeply enjoyable image to explore with the group.”



“First image the clients selected. The artist looks so familiar that we all felt we knew him.”





Trainee feedback
Community Partner feedback


“Though my clients would forget me each

week, they really did enjoy being in the space

and having me create alongside them together.

It was wonderful how art helped ease some

clients while distressed.”



“Support was excellent, I felt supported and

listened to. I thought the visit from both

Uni and Ben Uri was

useful and a good opportunity to raise any issues.”



“The level of support and supervision was

amazing and of very high quality.”



“We observed increased focus in residents

that are usually very distracted and

anxious. This change was also noticed by the

visitors and relatives of the residents.”



“…beautiful images for us to use with clients…

a lot of effort had gone

into this project.”



“The trainee was able to give person centred activities

that were unique to the individuals interests.

Personalised activities and one on one activities have 

incredibly high value to our organisation.”



“In the images and the art making process the

clients revealed the dynamics of their inner worlds.”



“The individual is a fresh face, offering

a new

perspective and expertise”




Art therapy in museums and galleries: reframing practice
















In March 2020, Art Therapy in Museums and Galleries: Reframing Practice, edited by Ali Coles and Helen Jury, was published with a book launch held at the National Gallery. Representing the first publication to address the growing significance of artworks in art therapy practice, it features projects from major institutions around the world including the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead, Modern Art Oxford and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 


Within this important publication, Ben Uri’s contribution, Starting with Art: Ben Uri Artworks as a Stimulus for Art Psychotherapy in Dementia Care uniquely explores the impact of  artworks from a gallery collection, used in community settings and their impact on a therapeutic engagement. The chapter also explores the foundations of the project and the collaboration underpinning its success. Ben Uri is leading the way in working with artworks on a training programme, equipping future art therapists to work with gallery collections.


To find out more, head to the Jessica Kingsley Publishers website where you can read a blog article about the publication, hear from the editors, or purchase the book.



This film features former Clinical Supervisor and ongoing advisor to the Starting with Art programme, Jane Landes, speaking in 2015 about what makes the project so unique and how art therapy differs to a traditional art group.