Art In Healthcare

Posted by editor 27/02/2014 0 Comment 3827 views

Art In Healthcare pic

Art In Healthcare is an Edinburgh charity which strives to improve the lives of patients and residents in care settings; Jenny McBain finds out more from CEO Trevor Jones

When did you first realise that there was a link between aesthetics and healing?

It wasn’t until the final year of my Fine Art degree – I think I felt compelled to find some sort of “measurable usefulness” for art. I grew up in a pragmatic environment. My father was a heavy duty mechanic working in the logging industry, very hands on and practical, and I’m sure his strong belief that something’s value was determined by its usefulness had influenced me.

I stumbled upon a paper investigating how patients recovering from surgery healed quicker if their room had a window looking out to a landscape. This doctor subsequently began constructing the theory that even images such as photographs and paintings of landscapes could positively affect one’s health. As soon as I saw this I knew that I needed to find out more.

Could you describe one of the most memorable occasions when you witnessed this first hand.

In my thirties when I’d been struggling through a really tough time culminating in a serious bout of depression. Completely out of the blue, I had this very peculiar urge to go to art school, feeling that this would “heal” me. I haven’t suffered from depression since. It most definitely confirmed my belief that art can and does heal.

Could you please describe the nature of your provision for patients?

When I first began working with the organisation I saw this great, little charity with a wonderfully, vast collection of high quality, original art being displayed in care homes and hospital waiting areas making a difference, brightening things up but I still felt the Collection wasn’t being utilised as effectively as it could be.

We began our outreach programme almost two years ago and it’s been gaining momentum ever since. We employ enthusiastic, professional artists to lead art workshops using work from our Collection as inspiration pieces for patients or care home residents. The participants learn a little about the artwork and then they create their own work in response to the pieces.

We’ve just launched a very innovative addition to the programme in which one of our artists leads iPad digital art workshops for elderly patients at a hospital in Edinburgh. I think it could lead to a lot of exciting possibilities, especially with patients who struggle with mobility and are unable to lift a paint brush or glue and collage media together.

How can people become involved in the work of the charity?

We have a number of opportunities available to volunteers, from helping our artists facilitate art workshops to working with the Collection Manager and Technician caring for and maintaining our art collection. We’ve recently begun providing collection management services for NHS Health Boards as well, most of which have their own extensive art collections and we’re in need of volunteers to help with locating and labelling artwork, photography, and cataloguing. Additionally, we’re building a huge online database to provide valuable information about all these artworks and so we’re looking for amateur (or professional!) writers interested in researching these artworks and the artists who made them.

We have an internship programme available for students and there is also a Friends of Art in Healthcare Society for students at Edinburgh University or Edinburgh College of Art. I’d really like to see this expand further to other higher education institutions in Scotland and so if there are any students reading this, feel free to get in touch.

And, if you’d rather not volunteer but would still like to support us, a small donation would be wonderful or even just sign up to our e-newsletter at our website to keep up to date on the growing number of events and projects we’re involved with.

What are you doing to encourage similar charities to take on this type of work?

Our main focus is to demonstrate to the Scottish health boards how important it is to have high quality artwork made by local artists on display in hospitals. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, we’re working towards helping the health boards to properly care for, manage and effectively utilise their own art collections, for the benefit of the staff patients and visitors. I’ve visited many hospitals and, trust me, there are lot of dark, empty and intimidating corridors and waiting areas.

What are your hopes for the future?

We had a staff development day just last week and the facilitator asked us all to finish this sentence: “Art in Healthcare’s job will be done when…” One of the responses was, “every hospital and care home will have a beautiful collection of artwork for the public to admire no matter what their budget constraints and our organisation is the leading brand for art in the healthcare environment in the world.”

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