PhD Research


Phd study: Exploring how community artists can work in a trauma-informed way 

Funded by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership

My PhD research is exploring trauma-informed participatory/community arts practice.

This research came about because over the years I’ve run art sessions and projects with lots of different people and communities, becoming gradually aware of the impact of trauma on people and concerned to understand more deeply how artists can work with individuals more safely in a creative way.

Collage forms a core strand of my PhD research and I am using it for my project fieldwork as well as exploring collage as a creative research method. In this short blog post I describe my first thoughts about collage as a method.

The PhD project fieldwork (the data gathering) has consisted of 18 interviews with community artists (2020 & 2022) and two collage projects with service users at Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services (2021), both in-person and online.

My method for the fieldwork has shifted from firstly co-creating an artist book portrait with service users at DRCSAS to the collage projects that I ran. My writing in the Journal for Artistic Research describes and reflects on this shift.

Above are images of collages made during the in-person project this autumn.

I have been fortunate to be mentored by and collaborate with artist Jean McEwan. As part of our time together we made this booklet from collages reflecting on self compassion and trauma-informed arts practice called Hold Fast Voyager.

The research has been ethically approved by the Geography Ethics Committee at the University of Exeter. To contact me about the research email cc943[at]

The participants in the first collage project chose to make a collaborative pamphlet for other service users at DRCSAS. It has been digitally printed and distributed. Here are a few of the pages they created.

Catherine Cartwright - trauma-informed artist, printmaker, researcher

Artist, printmaker, researcher

Catherine Cartwright is a multi-disciplinary artist, working primarily with printmaking, drawing and film, often exploring socio-political issues.

Based in Devon, UK, Catherine is currently undertaking a PhD funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) exploring how artists can work safely with individuals and communities affected by trauma.

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Photo By Jim Wileman: Catherine Cartwright’s ‘Brave New World’ at Maketank, Exeter, Devon | © 2024 | Privacy | Site: ZRD