Arts for Health is a partnership programme based in West Cork which integrates the arts programmes into the culture and practice of healthcare settings for older people. It takes place in five Community Hospitals and five Day Care Centres as well as Bantry General Hospital
The programme currently has two strands:
Day Care Arts Programme: delivered by four artists with approximately 96 participants including nursing staff, care staff and service users.
The Community Hospital Arts Programme is ongoing and is delivered in five Community Hospitals; Skibbereen, Schull, Dunmanway, Clonakilty and Castletownbere and in Bantry General Hospital, St. Joseph’s ward.
Managed by West Cork Arts Centre, Arts for Health runs all year round and is delivered by a team of artists from different disciplines. Artists on the team are: Sharon Dipity, Julia Pallone, Anne Harrington Rees and Sean O’Laoghaire. In 2011 visual artist Tess Leak was awarded a Programme Placement to work with Arts for Health.
The distinctive aspect of the programme is its management structure and interagency partnership comprising West Cork Arts Centre, Cork County Council, West Cork VEC and the HSE. The HSE is represented through the Cork Arts + Health Programme, the Health Promotion Department, the Nursing Directors of Community Hospitals and the Day Care Centres, West Cork.
The delivery is strategic in that it has developed a co-ordinated and accountable model of practice across eleven geographically distinct settings. A diverse programme is led by artists who have developed professional competence in working with older people.
The Community Hospital Arts Programme focuses on consistence of delivery for the benefit of the participant. It is structured around a weekly group workshop and regular one to one support to encourage and develop individual creative ideas. The content of the workshops evolve and change in response to the exchange between the artist and the participant. Occasionally the artists implement a thematic approach and draw on the support of the artists’ team.
The Day Care Centre Arts Programme is project-based and supports an ethos of creative exchange and experimentation between the artist and participant. The projects delivered aim to be stimulating, enjoyable and culturally relevant to older people frequenting the five day care centres in West Cork. The projects may differ in the style of delivery, some adopting a short directive encounter, while others involve more extended engagement.
The delivery of the two strands is supported via:
• monthly artist team meetings
• an online resource to support communication between artists, staff and partners
• professional development programmes for healthcare professionals and artists
• networking opportunities for artists
• an annual 16 week artist placement programme
The programme is integrated into the culture of the care setting which allows ideas and individual creative interests to be nurtured and develop over time. Participants each hold portfolios of their own work.
Projects form focal points for experimentation and exchange and numerous projects have been undertaken over the last seven years.
While visual art has been a predominant feature of the programme, music, performance and literary projects have also been realised.
Examples from 2011:
• Time for Tea in Bantry Day Care Centre with Seán O’Laoghaire. While sharing stories, participants created their own character tea cups and saucers, experimenting with colours and sculpting techniques.
• Deck of Cards in Dunmanway Day Care Centre with Anne Harrington Rees. Participants collaborated to design and make a unique deck of cards, using painted images created by each individual in the group.
• Postcard of a Tree in Clonakilty Day Care Centre with Julia Pallone. Individual process of design working on the theme of foliage led to a series of collaborative artworks, each printed as a postcard.
• Weather Prediction: Red Sky in the Morning in Skibbereen Day Care Centre with Sharon Dipity. Two collaged books were compiled of images created by participants exploring the colours and texture of weather.
In 2011 the artists began a new collaborative project entitled Spectrum which is a curated collection of artwork produced at the community hospitals that will give rise to a publication in May 2012.
The following testimonies were received from patients and staff:
‘It is an hour of pure pleasure as far as I am concerned…this is what you are looking forward to all week’
‘The Arts for Health project keeps our patients ‘alive’! We very much welcome the sense of joy and purpose it brings to our continuing care patients and those on respite.’
Documentation & Dissemination
A copy of Conversations in Colour: Evaluation of an Arts for Health Partnership Programme 2005/6 can be downloaded from www.westcorkartscentre.com where updates on the programme can also be found.
In 2007 a limited publication Conversations in Colour was produced with a selection of prose and images by participants from five Community Hospitals.
Artworks are framed on an ongoing basis for exhibition in the hospitals.
A selection of work from the programme is exhibited annually in the local libraries, commercial venues and during 2008 in the gallery at West Cork Arts Centre as part of the West Cork Bealtaine Art Trail. Bealtaine is a national festival which celebrates creativity in older age.
Arts for Health is committed to ongoing evaluation and reflective practice. Artists’ team meetings, online reflective journals and collecting feedback from participants and staff are structured into the artists’ time.
In addition to annual evaluation reports, the partnership has commissioned two documents. Conversations in Colour: Evaluation of an Arts for Health Partnership Programme 2005/6 was written by Jennifer Russell at the end of the first full year of implementation. Arts for Health Partnership: Day Care Centre Evaluation Report was written by Ann O’Connor and Charlotte Donovan when the programme expanded to include five Day Care Centres.
A new Arts for Health Strategic Plan for 2012 – 2015 will outline future plans for evaluation and research.