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Janet’s Journey with darts

Janet has an afro and wears an orange shirt. She plays a djembe next to two participants

Janet’s Journey with darts

Although Janet has always been creative, she came to discover her love and talent for visual arts through an unconventional route. Janet told us that as a child, she was an avid dancer, having watched dance on her favourite TV programmes and wanting to emulate what she saw. When she was 14, Janet’s family were able to send her to a performing arts academy, where she took her dancing to a higher level, and discovered modelling and performance. She remembers attending a dance class at The Point when she first began her dance journey.

Janet told us that she loved having a creative career, but when a knee injury cut short her profession as a dancer she turned to working in healthcare. She said that, although it was a challenging environment, she found real joy in working with people and building up positive relationships in a setting that focused on wellbeing. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and at the same time, Janet experienced a serious health scare.

“I did dancing and I’ve always drawn… so the artist has always been there. And then the pandemic happened, and I had a health scare – I’d gone from being a really healthy person to being in hospital in a really bad way.”

Janet told us that this had a severe impact on her mental health, and it was amidst these challenges that she turned to visual arts as an escape, finding joy in painting with colour and abstract forms. Taking part in online art workshops over lockdown improved Janet’s knowledge and skill of painting, and she began to feel the transformative impact of making art, soon realising that it could positively impact others too.

“I thought: ‘I can do this for other people. This is good for me, it saved me, and it really helped me escape from all this [mental health difficulty] and it makes me calm. I want to give that joy to people – it’s liberating, and I think there’s a value in it that often isn’t taken seriously enough.”

Finding darts again

Having pursued her visual arts practice coming out of lockdown, and completing her first solo exhibition in 2021, Janet became rooted in Doncaster’s rapidly growing creative scene. She told us that when the opportunity to apply for a traineeship at darts came about through Doncaster Creative network, she jumped at the chance. For Janet, the possibility of a traineeship based at The Point brought her creative journey full circle:

“I went through the application process and I realised I was actually starting to do what I set out to do – help people. The traineeship and darts’ values really seemed to align with why I do what I do.”

Janet’s development as an artist

Having come to her visual arts practice through such a non-linear route and learning as she went, Janet told us that being accepted onto the traineeship programme brought an important sense of validation to her work, building her confidence as an artist. As a Doncaster resident, and with darts’ work firmly rooted in Doncaster and designed around local needs, Janet found that the traineeship enabled her to be part of a mission close to her heart, that aligned with her values and goals as an artist.

“Thinking back now, it’s given me a clarity and that certainty: I do make art for mental health and to give people happiness, to give joy in life. It’s grey in Doncaster, and we need to do something – so I know I’m doing the right thing.”

Janet told us that, at first, she found the traineeship challenging. The programme is designed to push the boundaries of the artists’ practice, whatever their medium, and introduce them to new ways of making and sharing art with participant in settings and situations they may not have encountered before. Despite these challenges, she felt she was in a nurturing environment and that the support network offered by darts staff helped her to overcome a lack of confidence. This enabled her to learn and grow as an artist, providing her with the clarity she needed to take her work in new directions.

The completion of the traineeship sees candidates design and deliver their own workshop independently. Building on what she had learnt from darts’ artists, Janet delivered a visual arts workshop which participants told us was successful, joyful and had real value. Through her traineeship with darts, Janet has been inspired to set up her own business facilitating workshops based around the use of bright colours to share joy and promote mental wellbeing. For Janet, the traineeship proved a pivotal moment in her artistic career: having been a creative across different art forms for her whole life, the traineeship and darts brought about a new direction into participatory arts, enabling her to share joy, develop her practice, and follow her vocation as a talented visual artist making a difference in the community.

“It’s awesome. I think it’s completely necessary. Without colour, what is there? Without kind-hearted-individuals and well-meaning individuals coming together collectively and doing good, what is there? That bundle of energy is then leaving with participants, and they’re bringing it along with them in their day. It’s a positive energy that should be championed… it’s valuable.”

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