Art in Health Care
Last week nearly 400 professionals from across health, art, and education, nearly as many organisations (including Significant Seams), representing many more projects, from 22 countries gathered in Bristol in Southwest England to compare stories, case studies and interventions where Art is being used in Healthcare settings.
Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, Rt Hon Lord Howarth of Newport CBE, Co-Chair of the All-Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health, and Well-Being and internationally celebrated artists from across disciplines: Bobby Baker, Vic McEwan, Neil Valentine (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) and Julian West (Wigmore Hall) were among the delegates. Academics from medicine, nursing, psychology, and artistic practices also contributed – using a wide range of methodologies. Funders and commissioners also attended. The gathering represents both the growing body of evidence and an emerging critical mass of people and organisations seeking to affect policy and commissioning to make healthcare not just about treating symptoms, but instead also about supporting wellness.
Conversations with delegates indicated that Art in Health is not only about production – in fact many argue it is more about process, and the impact that process has. That process, when effective, can be expected to have a personal and reflective component. By its very nature it is not institutional – it is personal, even if in an institutional setting. Something intimate happens when action becomes art. It impacts a person’s well-being. Whether a stitch, a brushstroke, pen to paper, or fingers to keys, art is created not in the technique, but in the process and the meaning… and very often that meaning supports healing.
Some fantastic projects we learned about include:
- Handmade Well-being: An EU funded project training health workers in using craft with older people in health settings
- The Arts Programme of Southmead Hospital in North Bristol NHS Trust: in hospital craft circles have led to a series of projects and improved wellness amongst patients and wider community members
- The Art of Portering, in association with Breathe Arts Health Research and Guys and St Thomas Hospital: a programme that is engaging portering staff in learning about Hospital art collections and making poetry about their experience of the hospital. The project has empowered portering staff personally and in supporting patients, and enhanced awareness and experience of hospital spaces.
- Knitted Lives – which has led to HenPower. Knitted Lives emerged from a project with Equal Arts in Newcastle and three sewing circles. Participants knitted items representative of memories shared and collective works were exhibited and a beautiful and moving catalogue of the stories and items were produced. Equal Arts is currently open to expressions of interest from London artists for regular work with older groups in care settings.