USW and NHS creative arts and mental health collaboration

Creative canopies

The Plaza Exhibition Space at University Hospital Llandough (UHL) is exhibiting art by University of South Wales (USW) students, created as a response to working with people accessing mental health services.

During the pandemic, the group of second-year BA (Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts students worked closely with staff and outpatients within Assessment and Recovery, Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP), UHL. The collaborative project, ‘Creative Canopies: Stories of Nature and Heritage’, was supported and funded by Cardiff & Vale Health Charity’s Arts for Health and Wellbeing Programme and USW.

Heloise Godfrey-Talbot, lecturer, said: “The idea for ‘Creative Canopies’ was born from the ‘Queen’s Green Canopy’ tree-planting initiative for the platinum jubilee.

“This real-world experience is invaluable for the students, and I’d like to thank Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cardiff & Vale Health Charity’s Arts for Health and Wellbeing Programme for their continued support.”

The students and service users met online and discussed things that were important to them. Themes included local wildlife, bright colours, and television programmes about the natural world. Encouraged by the patients’ ideas, the students created activity boxes containing craft and instructions for patients to use on the Assessment and Recovery Unit. The resulting patient work then provided inspiration for the art exhibition.

Carys Morris and Daisy Rattray are nurses on the unit. Carys said: “I am not artistic whatsoever, so it was absolutely delightful to have guidance on how to work creatively with our service users.”

Daisy said: “We can get stuck in a rut with our arts and crafts activities, so it was lovely to have inspiration for new and unusual activities. The instructions were easy to follow and inclusive.

“The patients loved being creative and it was also incredibly useful for distracting anxiety and distress. Others found their creative flair while doing the activities and, in fact, one user went on to sign up for an arts and craft course.”

During the exhibition opening, students talked about their passion for helping people through creativity and their pride, in not only seeing their exhibition on display, but also knowing that their activity boxes provided some relief and pleasure to the users. The students presented the nurses with laminated, activity sheets that they can use repeatedly in their future care. 

Melanie Wotton, Project Manager for the Arts for Health and Wellbeing Programme at Cardiff & Vale Health Charity, said: “During recent Covid restrictions we needed to partner with an organisation which not only shared our core values but could adapt to deliver meaningful arts in health activities under difficult circumstances. The partnership with USW worked really well with students, patients, and the support of staff members to create an enjoyable intergenerational project.

“Bespoke art projects like these take a great deal of organisation and trust and that is why partnerships are so important. We are leaving behind a legacy that the nurses can use again and again. They have learnt what works in providing creative therapy and thereby giving patients a voice.”

The exhibition will run in the Plaza Exhibition Space until 6 June 2022.

Find out more about the exhibition and enter the virtual art gallery.

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