Using art to give young people a voice

Story by Rachel Oliver – Young People’s Support Worker

“Art enables us to find our self and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton


Since starting my role over 16 years ago, I’ve always used art to connect with the young people I support. Sometimes a simple colouring book and a cup of tea has often been the only plans we’ve made some evenings.

Creativity is an excellent tool to bring people together and it often helps young people to relax, express themselves and open up about their thoughts and experiences. It can spark interesting conversations around issues that affect them and sometimes can challenge behaviours and stereo typing in an informal way. Most importantly though, it is fun and gives us time out from our daily lives to just be.

Last year, I personally started to explore working with digital and mixed media artworks, which combines things like photography, painting, drawing, collage to create a finished piece. Often young people will not attempt to do art because they think they can’t draw, so I began using this format of art with them to help dispel that myth. This form of art opened up a creative discussion around how a young person visualises themselves. I then took this visualisation, putting it together with them to produce a finished piece of art.

Over the years, we’ve used the young people’s artwork to highlight an issue that’s close to them through exhibitions but we’ve also used the art to make their environment feel more friendly and relaxing. Seeing their art on the wall, helps them feel part of their surroundings. It’s something colourful for their rooms that they can take with them to their new home.

Art through support is a powerful and excellent tool, giving a young person another way to use their voice.


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