Charlotte shares her artistry with Abbeyfield residents from afar

Charlotte Froud, a student at Ardingly College in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, has started an online art class for residents at The Old Bake House, a sheltered housing scheme for older people in Chipping Norton, managed by Abbeyfield.

The residents have been invited to learn from Charlotte, who set up her own charity art project during the first COVID-19 lockdown. They have so far been exploring some basic sketching techniques, and will work their way up to other forms of art as they progress.

Charlotte says, “It’s especially important now to engage with people who have been isolated during lockdown. The idea of running this class came from a conversation I had with my friends, when we talked about the things we had missed doing during the pandemic. I thought it must have been doubly hard for older people, many of whom haven’t been able to go outside or have visitors come to see them. I jumped at the chance to connect with some Abbeyfield residents and share my passion.

“I chose The Old Bake House because I’ve heard great things about Abbeyfield from friends and family. It’s clear, from speaking to the residents, the lengths to which their amazing frontline staff have gone to support them over the past year, and it is really inspiring to see how they have kept their spirits up.”

There are 11 residents at The Old Bake House, located in the picturesque village of Chadlington, each with their own en-suite room, and a large shared garden commanding stunning views of the Cotswolds.

One of the residents who has attended Charlotte’s classes said,

I’m really enjoying the classes. My drawing isn’t as good as it used to be but I’m sure Charlotte can help us all to improve and create our own masterpieces!

Charlotte added, “I’ve really enjoyed hearing the residents talk about their lives during our sessions. They have some great, inspiring stories to tell and hopefully we will be able to explore their own experiences through art further down the line.”

Although currently working towards A-Levels in maths, chemistry and biology, and hoping to go on to study medicine at university, Charlotte says that she has always been passionate about art.

“It’s something I’ve practiced from an early age. I love the sense of community that art brings, when you’re creating something with other people. You can comment on each other’s work and see how it can conjure up different emotions. Art can mean so many different things to different people. It has been fascinating to see how our sessions have brought back so many memories for the residents.”

Charlotte has found that her classes have not only helped to develop the residents’ skills, but she has also seen how it has boosted their self-confidence.

She recalls, “In our first session there was one lady who brought in some paintings she had made many years ago. She was certain that she had lost some of her abilities more recently and hadn’t explored her artistic side for a while. It was wonderful to see her starting to engage with and enjoy her natural talent again, and I’m looking forward to seeing how all the residents progress in the coming weeks.”

The online classes have also presented the opportunity to use video-calls as a means of education and communication, which has not been without its challenges.

Charlotte explains,

The first thing I asked them to paint was a vase of daffodils that was on the table in front of me. I think something must have gotten lost in translation as they painted the daffodils along with me and the room behind me!

However, Charlotte has now become a face known to the residents, and a welcome one. Many have missed the visitors that were permitted inside The Old Bake House before the pandemic, so welcoming others back both physically and virtually is a step back towards normality.

The Old Bakehouse Manager, Emma Steele, said: “It’s wonderful to see our residents come to light and do something they love, to see what they have created and to show it off to their families. Charlotte is doing a fantastic job and, especially after the year we’ve had, it’s great for her to be willing to chat to the residents, always with a big smile on her face.”

For Charlotte, nature and animals have featured heavily in her artwork, and she has recently created the online Silver Lining Gallery to raise money for Make-A-Wish UK by selling her creations. All money raised by her fine art cards, prints and commissions goes directly to the charity.

Make-A-Wish UK grants life-changing ‘wishes’ for children and young people living with critical illnesses. Charlotte says, "Due to the pandemic, over 2,000 wishes have been cancelled or postponed in the UK. I’m hoping that the money I raise can help those children to receive the experience of a lifetime, after what must have been an especially difficult year."

Charlotte has so far raised over £1,500. To see her work, commission a drawing or painting, or to donate by purchasing cards or prints, visit her website. To find out more about how Charlotte set up the Silver Lining Gallery, listen to her interview on Live Longer: The Podcast.

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