A new and exciting charity

Hello, I am Mark Ware and I’m the founder and co-director of this new and exciting charity called Reflecting Nature in art & science.

Why have I set up the charity?

The answer to this question stems back to when I had a severe stroke in 1996, aged 39.  After enjoying a successful fine art and commercial art career in the UK and USA, my world was abruptly changed by my brain injury.  It affected almost every aspect of the way in which I navigate and negotiate the world around me. This life-changing event happened when the vitally important Stroke Association charity was in its infancy and so stroke awareness wasn’t great.  I remember feeling very confused by it all, not certain whether I would continue to live, or whether I would die. Strangely, the experience was peaceful in many ways.  The stroke made me realise that I wasn’t as important as I thought I was, but that I was significant.  Above all, I became aware of my vulnerability and how connected I am to the world around me.  I became aware of what we share, as opposed to the things that make us different.

This idealistic sentiment of positive, inclusive connectedness is certainly a foundation of both my art since my stroke, and the charity. Especially recently, where we have witnessed a rise in the language of division, with talk of ‘them and us’ – language that embraces intolerance – I feel it is of utmost importance that we offer a very different message through the work of the charity; a message that supports collaboration, inclusion, tolerance, the sharing of ideas and the desire to help protect the natural environment.

The impact of the natural environment is the central focus of the charity’s work.  Photo: Mark Ware

The experience of the stroke influenced the direction and content of my art in more direct ways, too.  Since that time, I have become increasingly interested in my altered subjective experiences caused by brain injury.  This has led to my collaborations with neuroscientists and psychologists, supported by Arts Council England.  At the centre of these collaborations -under the header ‘the Wavelength Project’- has been a focus on the great impact that the natural environment has on wellbeing and health and, in turn, the urgent need to protect and nurture this wonderful planet we live on.

The Reflecting Nature in art & science charity is the next step, building on the successful outcomes of the Wavelength Project. These outcomes have included neuroscience investigations into the benefits of exposure to natural sounds, which were published in a Science Report paper earlier this year.  Other successes included the Reflecting Nature art science collaboration with psychologists at Staffordshire University that featured a national touring exhibition and public engagement activities, that were experienced by over 90,000 people.  Its purpose was to explore ways in which art influenced by nature can be used to improve health and wellbeing, and to help vulnerable people in environments where sensory monotony is an issue (such as in hospitals).

I feel incredibly passionate about, and proud of, what we have achieved so far through the Wavelength Project.  With the support of a wonderfully talented Board of Trustees and Patron, I believe that we will be able to continue to make great progress with this work through our charity.

For more information about our art science collaborations so far, please click on the links:

New Scientist

Arts Council England

The Psychologist

Disability Arts Online