Off the Wall
Off the Wall is a series of artworks by Alan Dunne at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Connolly. The artworks were inspired by drawings created by some of the children and young people who visited the centre in 2020, along with conversations the artist conducted with CHI Connolly staff.
The project was curated by the CHI Arts in Health programme in partnership with the CHI Connolly Blank Canvas Group. CHI at Connolly is an Outpatient Department and Urgent Care Centre (OPD&UCC) located in Blanchardstown at the Connolly Hospital site. It is a first of its kind facility for children in Ireland.
The project was realised through a process of creative engagement between the artist, Alan Dunne, and children, young people, their families and CHI at Connolly staff.
Off the Wall was curated by the CHI Arts in Health team in partnership with the CHI Connolly Blank Canvas Group. The Blank Canvas Group is a multi-disciplinary team that make decisions around the installation or otherwise of non-clinical items into the space including artworks, interior design, signage, information boards, branding etc. The group aims to enhance the built environment and mitigate against visual noise.
The project was created in response to a wish expressed by CHI Connolly staff for artwork to be introduced to key procedure rooms in CHI at Connolly.
The artworks aim to encourage the wellbeing of patients and staff by inspiring conversations and by acting as a colourful distraction in a sometimes stressful environment.
Furthermore, this was an opportunity to provide children and young people, their families and staff who use the OPD&UCC the opportunity to engage with a professional artist, who would in turn produce high-quality artworks for rooms in the OPD&UCC.
The rooms initially identified by staff for artworks were the measuring rooms and plaster room of the OPD&UCC.
Off the Wall was an artist in residence project and an art commission.
Artist Alan Dunne familiarised himself with the space via a site visit where he met the staff and learnt about the patients’ experience. He presented initial ideas for the artwork and took on board feedback from staff members. The artist also conducted material research, looking at a wide range of materials that would be suitable for artwork in a hospital setting.
Once themes were agreed, the artist, facilitated by the Arts in Health team and Blank Canvas Group, invited children and young people to share their own ideas via bespoke art packs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on-site staff had a hands-on role in encouraging the uptake of the art packs to the children and young people who attended the OPD&UCC. A ‘Call-To-Action’ video featuring the artist was produced and was played on the digital screens in the waiting area of CHI at Connolly. The video encouraged children to make and share their art using the art packs and a designated post box.
The artist developed drawings inspired by patients’ drawings and ideas. These were then reviewed by CHI Connolly staff and the Arts in Health team. Artworks were produced as ceiling vinyl and wall decals and placed in-situ in CHI at Connolly’s procedure rooms.
The artworks were installed in CHI at Connolly in early 2021.
Artworks were produced in the form of ceiling vinyl and wall decals for four rooms in CHI Connolly: a procedure room, two measuring rooms and a plastering room.
They featured Irish nature and animals along with their accompanying onomatopoeic sounds, outer space, fairies and magic, and everyday objects from planes to soda cups were there too. Overall, the artworks have an element of fantasy to them, which gives them a playful and surreal feel.
The number of sites for the artworks expanded in the course of the project in response to a request from the play specialist to have artwork on the walls and ceiling of a procedure room in the urgent care centre which is a particularly stressful space for children.
Evaluation methodology has been qualitative in nature, consisting of staff feedback forms and a reflective report from the artist.
Feedback also included conversations with staff, patients, and parents, along with evaluative meetings between the Arts in Health team and the Blank Canvas Group.
Artist and illustrator Alan Dunne on the process and approach overall:
'I learned how art has the potential to help shape a healthcare experience in a positive and meaningful way. Despite the residency taking place during the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 lockdowns, it was an opportunity to remotely engage patients and staff, to be inspired by the artwork created by CHI staff and children, to respond to valuable feedback from CHI staff about the spaces, and the procedures carried out there. It was a rewarding art project and I hope that my artworks will be enjoyed by patients and staff for many years to come.'
Principal Clinical Psychologist, Aoife Brinkley, reflects on the project:
'I've been taken aback by the difference it makes when a design takes the use of and dimensions of the space into account. In other hospital areas, I've seen areas brightened by "off the shelf" children's decals. But the difference between that and what has resulted from the Off the Wall project is huge.
The way in which the children's drawings informed the design gives the images an authenticity and richness that would be lacking if commercial products were used. And I think that makes them much more attractive to children. It's hard to put it into words but there's a cohesiveness to these spaces now - the images feel like they belong there and the bird on the wall is as important to the space as the piece of equipment. The thought that has gone into them communicates a real respect for the children and families that use our service.'
Documentation & Dissemination
Post-installation, images of the artwork were taken by staff on site and shared with the Blank Canvas Group and the Arts in Health team.
Date of Publication
August 2020 to February 2021
Children’s Health Ireland
Children’s Health Ireland
Children, Primary Care/ Community Health
Nature of Project
Art Commission, Collaborative/ participatory, Residency