Ruth Sidgwick's final exhibition 'And Breathe' aims to support NHS workers

MA Arts Practice, Arts, Health and Wellbeing Graduate and NHS worker, Ruth Sidgwick’s final exhibition piece ‘And Breathe’ focussed on how NHS staff can de-stress through engaging in creative activities. Here, she tells us how the unique structure of the course combined with a supportive cohort of fellow art students encouraged her to change her approach to art and immerse herself in the discipline. 

“Taking on study at master’s level is not an easy option. Combining it with the stresses of working full time, as an acute NHS hospital arts manager, forced me to make some life-changing decisions:  I took a sabbatical from work to create space to immerse myself. 

The structure and pace of the course made it necessary to be very self-motivated but the relationships I formed with my cohort helped carry all of us through lows, highs and times when we thought we just couldn’t do it anymore.  We formed a strong, mutually supportive team and we’ll be friends for life.

The course became a catalyst on so many levels, not least for my own arts practice and notion of myself as ‘artist’.  Work-life balance, values around socially engaged practice, connections with other practitioners, my work in my specific NHS setting all came under close scrutiny.

The critical appraisal of my own and others’ work stretched my thinking, deepening my understanding of the context in which I’m working and how my practice can complement that, as well as the wider field of arts and health.  I pushed myself in so many new directions: conducting research, running workshops, exhibiting my own work, developing projects with clinicians, presenting at conferences and collaborating with local artists.

Now it’s finished I miss it! The discipline, the camaraderie, the tutors, but most of all the work.  I loved the luxury of time to explore my subject more deeply with the resources and facilities to do so. 

Constant reflection and learning have refreshed and fundamentally changed my approach, giving me a more profound insight into and increased interest in one area of the arts that continues to grow and develop. 

And I can now, very occasionally, admit to being an artist.”

Learn more about studying MA Arts Practice, Arts, Health and Wellbeing at USW.