A group of Creative and Therapeutic Arts students at the University of South Wales have created a series of bespoke artwork in collaboration with local hospitals.
The project aims to help improve the well-being of patients and staff at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny and The Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran, by creating art that is relaxing, distracting or provides a conversation starter.
Now in its fifth year, the project has seen USW work in partnership with Gwent Arts in Health (GARTH), a health and well-being charity that delivers a creative programme in healthcare and community settings throughout the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.
Responding to the theme of ‘Growth’, the artwork produced by the second-year students is on display at Nevill Hall Hospital.
It explores the relationship between healthcare and the natural world – both the medicinal properties of plants, and how natural environments can provide a space for healing and well-being.
Previous students’ works have brightened the corridors of St Woolos Hospital in Newport.
Last year’s exhibition was thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and so the students who are currently in their final year are now seeing their work exhibited at Nevill Hall.
Sarah Goodey, Arts Development Manager for GARTH, said: “We’ve enjoyed and benefited from working with USW Year 2 Creative and Therapeutic Art students over the past five years. The artwork in St Woolos Hospital continues to enhance the corridors for patients and staff, and the work on show at Nevill Hall Hospital and The Grange University Hospital brings new ideas and creativity to our clinical spaces. Students have incorporated information and ideas from staff in their work, which is a great way to reach out to our hospital communities.”
USW was also commissioned by Studio Response, a company which curates art for public spaces, for a two-year project to produce artwork for The Grange University Hospital, a new specialist and critical care centre for Gwent.
Three students from each year were chosen by Studio Response to develop work for the new hospital – Kelly Havard Jones, Bryony Crabbe, Chloe Withers, Sue Hosler, Lowri Field and Louise Westgarth. Anna Billes was also awarded a participatory commission, which involved her running a session with young patients, exploring the fun and healing properties of music and art combined.
The six chosen artworks are now on display in the corridor leading to a critical care unit at The Grange, which includes operating theatres, bedrooms, relatives’ rooms, counselling rooms and staff rooms, and have been very well received by patients, staff and visitors.
Emma Price, Founder and Co-Director of Studio Response, added: “It has been a huge privilege for Studio Response to engage sincerely with students in a meaningful way and to contribute in part to their educational journey in art, health and well-being. Our aim was to provide a professional perspective on the critical and curatorial components of working in healthcare environments and to award seven artists the opportunity to permanently display their work at the Grange University Hospital.
“We were extremely impressed with the students’ ability throughout their assignment to give a voice to the voiceless and to transform their engagement with the healthcare sector into a series of visual works. Their artworks have already received wide acclaim from staff, patients and visitors to the Grange. Staff in particular have expressed their appreciation of artworks that highlight the work they do and that of the NHS as a whole.”
Sue Hosler was one of the students who took part in the project, and now has her work on display at The Grange University Hospital. She said: “This project helped me to appreciate that there is a natural synergy between art and medicine, especially when it comes to happiness and wellbeing. The focus on nature and the natural world opened up a creative opportunity far beyond simply using art to decorate the walls.
“My series of artwork, called ‘I Know I Am Safe Here’ evolved out of art workshops attended by older hospital patients with cognitive impairment. Using nature and flowers to build a sense of calm in a collaborative creative space was hugely restorative, and participants not only reported having had an enjoyable time, but also feeling significant improvements in their wellbeing. I feel very proud that this artwork is now on display at the Grange Hospital, especially as it reflects the creativity of the hospital patients who made art with me. I’ve seen first-hand that art can make a real difference anywhere, offering an exciting, challenging and inclusive opportunity for everyone to take an active role in the improvement of their own wellbeing.”
Heloise Godfrey-Talbot, Lecturer in Creative and Therapeutic Studies at USW, added: “There is a strong and growing evidence base that shows that art in hospital settings can have a beneficial effect on the wellbeing of hospital visitors and staff. In the project students learn to create art that provides a welcome distraction, a calm meditative space or an intriguing conversation point. Through working on a real-life brief and having the opportunity to learn from different Arts in Health professionals, I have seen the students become more confident, passionate and professional.
“For most students this is their first exhibition opportunity, and is something they can add to their CV and their professional websites – which they build in their final year – ahead of graduating. There is also a clear sense amongst the students that working with arts professionals de-bunks the myth of the Arts Commissioner or Curator as ‘beyond reach’. They feel upon completion of the project that they have the confidence to maintain the professional networks they have made and even pro-actively get in touch with new commissioners. For those students who won the commission, they will have the further benefit of attending an opening event and other promotional opportunities once Covid restrictions allow.”