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By Framd | 17 September 2019

Art for a collective cause

Contrary to rumour, artists are actually a pretty sociable bunch, evidenced by a colourful history of art collectives dating back to ancient times. From sculptors’ workshops in Italy, baroque artists and those of the Russian revolution, artists love getting together.

History aside, we wanted to get a better idea of what art collectives look like today, what their aims are and how art brings their members together. In the first of our interviews, we spoke to Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM (CAMPAIGN AGAINST LIVING MISERABLY) about a new art collective helping ‘push forward the conversation on mental health and self-expression’.

Life-saving connections

Asked why art was chosen as a medium for their message, Simon explains that a collective had always been part of CALM’s core strategy. He said:

“We believe in getting people together around the things they love. If you’re doing something you enjoy with people who enjoy it too, you’re more likely to make connections and create communities.”

Established in July this year, CALM believes that collectives are great ways of connecting their supporters - online and offline - in a way that feels accessible and conducive to good health. They believe that bringing their message into lives and communities and using activities and interests as a channel to do so can bring hugely positive impacts, and the social connections members foster can be genuinely life-saving. Simon adds:

“Art is an interesting space. It encourages expression and can operate on varied mediums to explore emotions and bring people together."

Simon Gunning
Simon Gunnings


The Connor Brothers
The Connor Brothers






‘Art makes us human’

On their website, CALM states that art can help us ‘get through tough times and deal with difficult emotions. It can bring us together, or it can give us the space and time we need to reflect and switch off.’ Simon’s own words clearly convey his passion for art:

“Art has been used for millennia to explore feelings and emotions. It’s also brought people together for just as long - cave paintings, carvings, sculptures. Art really is one of the things that makes us human.”

He explains that while setting up the CALM collective, the founders spoke to lots of different people, including the Connor Brothers, Ryan Stanier, Gommie, and concluded there’s no single thing that makes it work for people. Simon adds:

“It’s not an equation, and that’s what makes it so fascinating and effective. Art means something different to everyone. It can morph into whatever you want it to be, whatever you enjoy or whatever you’re going through. It’s so personal and individual. You find what works for you, what you like, what you get a kick from, and if other people like it, that’s great!”

‘Perfect’ ambassadors

CALM says it’s fortunate to have artists like The Connor Brothers to support it. “They are the perfect ambassadors – they’re not classically trained but have created a huge following for their work.” Simon says.

The Connor Brothers’ story fittingly reflects the message CALM is trying to send. The artists behind ‘The Connor Brothers’ created faux biographies of teenage twin brothers escaping to New York from a cult that prohibited knowledge of the outside world, and communicating their new discoveries through art. But their tall tale covered up a more real, and debatably more resonating story. A story of two art dealers from London who had suffered drug addiction, experienced suicidal feelings and bipolar disorder but felt too ashamed to tell the truth about their lives. Simon believes the collaboration has really added to the cause. He says:

“CALM ambassadors like The Connor Brothers and Gommie, have enabled us to really bring our collective to life.”


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