Purpose: This paper aims to describe a partnership visual arts project between Richmond Fellowship (a national mental health charity) and the Bluecoat arts centre in Liverpool involving participants with mental health problems. Design/methodology/approach: The paper details the development of the project since September 2010 and, most importantly, the artistic development of the individuals who are still taking part and the improvements in their mental health and wellbeing. It also describes the development of the group in becoming an independent organisation. Findings: Evaluation was undertaken at regular intervals through wellbeing questionnaires, one-to-one interviews and observation, which led to the following findings: with support, individuals with mental health problems experience significant benefit in engaging with the arts, to their mental health, their personal development and development as artists. Given time, they require less support and are willing to take on responsibilities, which has enabled them to become an independent organisation. Social implications: This paper makes the case for the effectiveness of partnership working between mental health and arts organisations to improve mental health and social inclusion. Originality/value: The paper adds to the body of evidence concerning the use of arts in recovery and of use to mental health organisations who are interested in using the arts in the process of support.