Artist brings community together in lockdown to launch online exhibition for World Mental Health Day

A former graduate and  ‘Artist in Residence’ at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), who champions new talent in the city, is launching an online exhibition this weekend to mark World Mental Health Day.

Leila Houston, who graduated with a Master’s in Art from DMU and took up a one year residency at the university, has been collaborating with artists and the public during lockdown, culminating in a showcase called Encrypted Sounds of Wellbeing.

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pic by Leila Houston

The exhibition asks what needs are most important to us and how we ensure we maintain our wellbeing.

Two groups of young artists from Charnwood Arts’ People Making Places programme were involved in workshops while the Arts Council England-funded project has also commissioned professionals to contribute. Leila will also be displaying her work which looks at the ‘haunting isolation’ of lockdown.

The young artists have come from diverse backgrounds and many identify as being neurodiverse, due to conditions such as Dyslexia, ADHD or being on the Autistic spectrum.

Leila said: “By exhibiting work by artists and the public together we hope to visually represent a sense of community, accepting our similarities and differences and to show solidarity on World Mental Health Day.


Attend the opening night of Encrypted Sounds of Wellbeing

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“My public projects have always been about bringing people together and bringing the city together, whether that’s through working with community groups, organising group exhibitions with fellow artists or putting on festivals and art events across Leicester

“When lockdown started, the challenge was how to carry on the work I’d started with these talented young artists. The project’s theme of wellbeing felt more relevant than ever during this period of isolation and I had to find a way to keep it going.”

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artwork (edit) by George Sarell

Leila got the workshops to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a famous theory based on lists of human needs. It starts at the bottom with basics – such as food, drink and sleep – moves up to psychological needs – such as friendship, family and intimacy – and reaches the top of a pyramid with self-fulfilment.

“With the groups we specifically looked at unpicking Maslow's theory, relating it to how we viewed ourselves and the world we were experiencing. We also challenged ourselves to develop artworks that moved away from the pyramid diagram,” Leila explained.

“One group came up with their own responses to the theory with drawings, an animation, a science fiction short story and depictions of inventions designed to help society live alongside coronavirus.

“The second group have developed a series of drawings depicting needs that will be made into a ‘colour by numbers’ artwork.”

"The whole mass collaboration should bring something a bit different to our home during lockdown."

Artist led Silver Vine Arts, made up of seven artists who have studied at DMU , has also been commissioned to support the project to help with web design, professional writing, marketing and the curation of the public's artworks named "Colour by numbers’" showing at The Exchange bar, opposite Curve in Rutland Street, from 10 to 18 October. 

People who visit on Saturday will also be able to hear a new piece of music titled Weightless, recorded by Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes, Chris Constantinou and Marco Pirroni of Adam and The Ants).

You can attend the opening on Saturday 10 October at 7.30pm and visit the online exhibition up to October 31 at

Posted on Wednesday 7 October 2020

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