Graduates 2023: Caroline Fortune: MA Inclusive Arts Practice

“Give yourself permission to do something that makes your heart sing, and trust the process when it feels messy. ”

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

Over the past few years my practice has been developing through organic arts and permaculture. I enjoy building with recycled materials and creating crafts using natural materials such as wood, plants and string, materials that are foreageable and environmentally friendly.


I’m a registered mental health nurse and for several years have worked with people with sensory processing differences, so sensory work has always been part of my practice. I have been basing practice around sensory grounding and nature. I’ve brought this into inclusive arts practice as a way of working with a range of people to support which sensory mediums best suited them individually. I’ve been really influenced over the years of people that have touched my life through this work and my practice has really changed in relation to what I’ve learned from how people experience the sensory world.

The thread through my practice is narrative and storytelling and since become a mother 3 years ago my storytelling has revolved around my daughter, motherhood, childrearing communities. I now work as a fire facilitator supporting mother and babies to find community and we practice forest crafts weekly around the fire at race hill community orchard.

I’m really interested in narrative work and the work of Alan Grant collaborating with people with lived experience of mental health issues has been a big influence on my writing practice.

I’ve been inspired by forest school crafts when attending Bee in the woods with my daughter. I have been learning from people like Jenny Dean and Allen Brown, both local Sussex crafts people working with plants to create and dye fabric. My friend and colleague Marion Duggan at Murmeration arts has inspired me with her creative mother’s work and I’m now privileged enough to work with her and Poppy Sharmen at an organisation called Wyld mothers. My most powerful influence in the last few years has been my daughter, her honest creatively always leaves me feeling inspired. She can just just some upon anything and it will open up these incredible imaginary worlds. It’s so much fun.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey to your course and made you choose it?

I have always practiced art since I was little but when I was younger, I found the artistic process too painful to harness. I instead moved into a world of social care and felt for a very long time that my calling was to be of service, which still fits me but in a different way. I studied psychology and mental health nursing and through this journey processed parts of myself that I needed to feel brave enough to return to an arts career.

I always weaved art and sensory grounding into my work with people but after having my daughter and returning to nursing after maternity leave, I felt ready to give myself permission to embark on a course like the one I’m on. I always had a desire to be an art therapist but at this point in my experience I no longer wished to be a therapist but to do something collaboratively with people in a different way. I had a look online and this course popped up. It felt perfect and organic navigation from all my movements before.

My nursing dissertation was a literature review of the benefits of collaborative art making in mental health work and so inclusive arts practice seemed the natural progression from my journey so far.

I’d also trained at Brighton as a mental health nurse and had had a brilliant experience. The down to earth humanness of going to Brighton left me with lots of memories of feeling very supported. As a student with ADHD I’d previously struggled with studying and my experience at Brighton had been so supportive and I did really well as a result.


What were the highlights of the course for you?

The highlights of this course start with the fact that I now get to practice art with people for a living, which feels like living the dream. I love it. But also, the transformation that I have undergone, the healing that I have experienced through this practice myself, And the sense of community I have developed through my peers, tutors, and collaborators and all who I’ve encountered on this journey. I’m very grateful.

It’s also been incredible to include my daughter through this whole journey. Practicing art with her and taking her along to open houses, the Pheonix and sharing creative energy with her. It’s worked well with my role as a mum.

Of course, also my research project working with mums and babies. I just loved creating the sessions and being able to be in a creative space with other women and their little ones who brought  so much to how I developed my practice.


Was the location of your course in Brighton important?

Yes. When I started the course, I had a 15-month-old, and the campus is a 15-minute walk from my house. Falmer campus is stunning but would not have been as accessible.

It’s been a space that displayed art throughout my course offering me a lot of learning and inspiration even when just grabbing a cup of tea.


What are your plans after graduation? What’s next for you?

I have started to work for an organization called Wyld Mothers Fire, holding a fire space with mothers and babies and here I get to practice creatively and use forest crafts with the group. I love this job and plan to continue with them and work with them more as this moves forward.

I would also like to look at funding opportunities for further creative workshops as well as my own personal practice and arts research.

I intend to continue nursing to combine these skills and work collaboratively with a range of organisations. The future is feeling very rich.


What advice would you give to someone considering doing postgraduate study?

Give yourself permission to do something that makes your heart sing, and trust the process when it feels messy.


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