Fragile Existence and branches of connection – Laura’s experience of Kelvingrove Art Gallery

This week on the blog, Laura is sharing her experience of going to Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the West End of Glasgow. Laura attended an exhibition curated by GAMH about mental health and lived experience. In her post, as well as describing the day, Laura discusses re-entering society after the past few years of lockdowns, the lack of control we have in our lives, and the joy of connecting with other community correspondents and forming a bond. Laura’s words, and the photographs she took at the exhibition, are below.

Mind Waves is one of the reasons I exist today and why I am still able to navigate my own fragile mental health. So, when Rosie (project manager of Mind Waves!) asked if I would or could go to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and write a blog from a community correspondent’s point of view, I put every self-management tool into production. It had been over 3 years since I had shown up to any public event.

Little did I know, Fidget, my little Jack Russell, would end up trapped underneath the wooden decking the morning I was planning to go! We needed to use a crow bar to rip up the boards, and her most favourite buddy Lily, (Age 12) to come to the rescue. Fidget came out from under the deck like a rocket and pounced on her bestie. We let out a huge sigh of relief, and became anxious of the fact of us making the event on time. I consolidated my plan, gave the time Lily and Fidget needed for cuddles, tears, laughter, and most importantly, lots of love. I’m learning you can’t control everything but you can control how you respond when things go out of your control.

So, I was on my way to the gallery, reminding myself to keep breathing; inhaling and exhaling. Every Glasgow event I want to attend always just happens to be right across the city. Paul, my partner, pulled in and I got out. I don’t think I’ve ran that fast since country dancing in secondary school; through well over 100 people, tapping and doing heel toe, heel in front of a band and a large crowd. Flashbacks of those first dances in school which would become a topic later on over refreshments.

I have to thank the volunteer at the gallery who showed me where I needed to go, more than once! He got me to the “The Fragile Room” where a large group were attending the exhibition. My eyes were searching for a familiar face, and then I spotted Jenny from GAMH who was working on this collaboration with Elaine the curator of “Open Museum” from Glasgow Museums Resource Centre. I  felt so welcomed and instantly at peace.

As I was taking pictures of the group with Elaine and Jenny, I suddenly heard a familiar voice, and then I saw John, another community correspondent and fabulous poet. I was instantly grounded and felt an amazing feeling of life and connection. There was such a strong feeling of love within this group of people, a familiarity, and a wave of comfort, respect and admiration for each other and the art. There were also quotes from the group attached to each piece. The room gave the feeling of comfort another dimension, an embrace of calm and reflection.

We made our way to a different room for cake and refreshments. But it ended up feeling like a lot more than that. Elaine spoke first, sharing a few words with us about the story of the exhibition:

“Welcome… Way back in November 2019 we had our first session here in Kelvingrove, and from there the group worked tirelessly to bring the display together working on object selection, hang and interpretation. They also explored how museums work behind the scenes, meeting other members of staff and creating a visitor survey and public programme. And they put the world to rights – we had a lot of fun.

It was quite a Journey; I only wish you could have all experienced it with us. Covid has delayed its display for almost 2 years, but it is now finally installed and pushing boundaries at Kelvingrove. The first co-curated exhibition in the art spaces, the first art exhibition there to focus not on art history, but on personal lived experience and the depth of insight that it brings.

Sadly, Jim one of the group members passed away before the display was installed, but we are delighted that his wife Lesley can be here today. A big Thank you to Jenny and GAMH for there never ending support. Also Steven Carson for the fabulous photos he took for the group at GMRC.”

Then, to finish the speeches,  The Open Museum Manager Chris Jamieson spoke:

“Really sorry I can’t be there. The exhibition is a subtle, yet powerful intervention and very moving when you know all that’s behind it. I hope especially those involved are pleased to see it in the space after all this time and to have occasion to get together again.”

Afterwards, myself and Lesley went back to the exhibition to reflect, and also so Lesley could share some of her memories of Jim. Her universe had aligned, as well as it being the launch, it was also her birthday. She felt Jim’s presence, which was of great comfort. Jim had passed with terminal cancer in February 2022, the day before their niece gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. I remember her saying:

“We come into this world with our first breath and we leave with our last.”

I asked Lesley how they had met. She told me that Jim was working for Girders Irn Bru and had broken his foot, she was the Nurse who aided him in his recovery, and he asked her out after his discharge. What will always stay with me is that, when he was working on the exhibit, Jim already knew that he was going to lose his life to this dreadful disease, but he was more upset about the group coming to an end; the work and the people. That is truly what kept him going with Adrian, Desmond, Emma and Theresa, the people who were sharing the journey and exhibition.

The group of people working on the exhibition became a new family, bonded together through seeds of hope and strength. We all felt united in life’s Fragile Existence on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

It made me look forward to seeing some new faces and creativity at Mind Waves, from then to now, we are like one big family tree growing together through collaboration, finding trust and safety. When the seasons change and branches give way, these changes of circumstance can make you stronger.  No matter who you are on this planet, and how you are surviving, we can try to thrive.

I want to thank everyone, including those who are absent, for allowing me into your lives. I will leave you with a few words of mindfulness:

When you are out and about, stand or sit under a tree. Allow it to give you shade, refuge, a photograph. Look up and beyond the branches and share a thought of past, present or future! Just trust the journey and remember that it is ok to ‘branch out!’

“There’s a tree that never grew

There’s the bird that never flew

There’s the fish that never swam

There’s the bell that never rang”

Love and Light,













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