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In Conversation

Video – Looking to the Future: Arts & Health in Ireland

Date posted: 27 November 2021

Looking to the Future: L-R: JP Swaine, Mary Grehan,  Siobhán Clancy, Tom Meskell.

What do we need to progress arts and health practice in Ireland? To mark the 10th anniversary of artsandhealth.ie in October 2021, we hosted a panel conversation ‘looking to the future’ and exploring aspirations for arts and health practice. 

Chaired by Claire Meaney, Director of Waterford Healing Arts Trust, the panel featured JP Swaine, Culture Transformation and Social Movement Leader within HSE Values in Action, Mary Grehan, Children’s Health Ireland Public Art Curator, Siobhán Clancy, Community Arts Coordinator with Cork City Arts Office, and Visual Artist Tom Meskell.

Key within [a] dialogue on partnership is to go back to the old adage: Nothing About Us Without Us, that a person‑centred care approach and a potentially transformative artistic practice is nothing without the participants, the affected group. In some cases, they are patients, residents of care settings, our community comrades engaging with the health service… How can we truly create access points so those relationships can be built in the first instance; that the work can be done safely and in a supported way?‘ – Siobhán Clancy 

The problem is that actually valuable public funds are spent on recreating the wheel every time. And if there were longer term residencies ‑ I’m talking about five‑year artist-in-residences ‑ the artist and the arts could be more responsive in a quicker way to healthcare needs and the needs of patients, clients, health service users and the needs of the organisation.’ – Mary Grehan 

There isn’t a shared funding stream that we can all tap into it. It is coming very much in a patchwork way and I think we’re all employed in patchwork ways … What fascinates me is long‑term sustainable work … that doesn’t really exist within the HSE structures. We are kind of fitting in between gaps. There isn’t a role for artists in the health system, there isn’t a department within the health board that solely deals with arts and I think [we need that] for things to progress.’ – Tom Meskell

There is an awful lot to be optimistic about in terms of the current generation and cohort we have in health staff. I think we have a tremendously well-educated, agile and open-minded population who are currently our caregivers in health… That wasn’t my experience when I first joined the Health Service … So, in 18 years that feels like a different kind of health service with a different kind of responsiveness to innovation, where it’s relevant, but also to more holistic approaches.’ – JP Swaine 

The Arts and Health Conversation Series 2021 is produced by artsandhealth.ie and funded by the Arts Council and the HSE.

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