11th July 2003
Art is a therapy for mature student Jean Hardwick, who has had to overcome family difficulties and a debilitating sickness to complete her degree course.
Jean (53), of Ings Road in Hull, began suffering from hyperaccusis – an unusual intolerance of everyday sounds – when she was halfway through her Fine Art degree at the University of Lincoln.
Not only did she have to cope with her illness, but she also had to deal with a number of family problems which stemmed from her husband’s death eight years ago.
During this time she provided nursing care and emotional support day and night for a beloved elderly aunt for several years before her death.
As she started her final year Jean’s mother was very ill and was rushed into hospital twice, and Jean now accompanies her on frequent hospital visits.
In her final year Jean suffered two debilitating bouts of flu and no sooner had completed preparations for her final-year show she collapsed and was rushed to hospital to have her gall bladder removed
In spite of her own difficulties she found time to help other people with their problems, from dealing with debts to emotional support and temporarily taking in one or two teenagers while they found other accommodation or returned to their parents.
Despite all this Jean achieved an upper second-class degree and will receive her certificate with her fellow students later this month.
“I seem to be a survivor – I’m still here and in one piece!” says Jean, who will be at Hull City Hall at 11.30am on Wednesday 23rd July to receive her Fine Art degree from the University of Lincoln.
Jean says she turned to art as a means to release the hurt and grief of her husband’s death which had had to buried while she struggled to help her youngest son, who had developed emotional and behavioural problems.
He recovered, but Jean found it difficult to find the emotional release she needed and so turned to art, never thinking that it would end in a university degree.
“At the start of my second year my hearing went haywire and I was diagnosed as having hyperaccusis, which means that ordinary background noise is amplified.
“It’s like living in a disco - background noise such as the hum of computers or air conditioning is intolerable and the noise of traffic on a wet road is excruciating.
Something will trigger it and then I have to live in this disco world until my brain decides to switch it off.”
Jean completed an HND in Creative Studies at Hull College in 2000/1 and then moved to the University of Lincoln for a two-year top-up course in Fine Art.
Her hyperaccusis made it difficult for her to listen to lectures or use computers, but with the support of staff and students she managed to complete the course.
“It started around Christmas in 2001 and I could have left university in the first few months, to be honest,” says Jean. “It was terrible to live with. I had to find little secluded refuges like coffee shops in churches or museums to get away from the noise.
“It meant I was actually classed as disabled, which is a huge thing to come to terms with. I couldn’t work on the computers at the university so I was given a computer by DART (Disability Access Resources and Technology) so that I didn’t have to go into the computer suite to study.
“The noise from the air conditioning, the computers and the extractor fans was terrible sometimes. I couldn’t sit through a full lecture.
“But I had a lot of support from staff and other students on the course to keep me there. When the going got tough I spent some time with the university counsellors and they kept me on the course.
“The learning advisers gave me the use of a spare room to study in so I didn’t have to put up with the background noise. I’m very grateful to everyone for their help and support.”
Jean managed to find an outlet from her problems in her art – she specialises in sculpture, photography and installation.
Now she plans to continue her work running art workshops in the community. After all, as Jean herself can testify, “Art can be very therapeutic!”
For more information contact: Jez Ashberry, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Lincoln (tel: 01522 886042) email: email@example.com