Image shown: OFFSET. Photo Credit: Ruby Wallis.

Offset, an intergenerational printmaking exhibition at University Hospital Galway, will be officially launched on 6 August 2019 by Mrs Sabina Higgins. Celebrating exchange between the ages and wards of Galway University Hospitals, the project was developed through participatory workshops with patients. 

Offset explores the significance of the simple postcard in connecting from a distance, making someone’s day, and in making the hospital more human – even if we seem to not be saying very much.

The Offset project and exhibition is led by Saolta Arts (formerly Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust). The participative arts programme is facilitated by professional artists who tailor workshops to the individual needs and interests of patients whilst drawing from their own arts practices. Whether journeys of the imagination or a change of scene from the ward, a new way of working or a pastime rekindled, the activities spark conversations with new friends and fresh dialogue with old ones. The artist team respects the parameters of the care context, navigating limitations to support participants in reaching their creative potential and in making the hospital a place of possibilities.

In care for the elderly and rehabilitation contexts, this fosters what can still flourish when other things seem to be fading. The creative process promotes autonomy otherwise limited by ill health, and participants’ achievements can help them to re-evaluate their abilities in the face of change. In paediatrics, the workshops nurture the imagination of young patients and their siblings to allay fears and make positive memories of their time in hospital. The Offset project brought an exciting opportunity for an artist to work across these contexts at Galway University Hospitals.

Offset began when printmaker Aoife Barrett joined the Artist Team in 2018. In preparation for Offset, she visited the Connemara studio of renowned Aosdána artist, Margaret Irwin West. Both highly skilled artists with a passion for sharing printmaking with others, this was an opportunity for the artists to exchange their skills and experiences. West shared a printmaking technique which she had used to explore pattern with school children in outdoor workshops in India, and Barrett shared plans for her mobile printmaking studio, Print Van Go, and an ingenious custom made ‘print-case’ which opens as a miniature print table complete with a pasta-maker printing press. Her determined attempts to make printmaking more accessible allowed Saolta Arts to programme for Paediatric outpatient waiting areas in response to staff feedback. This recognised that the siblings of young patients also spend significant time in hospital and that activities were needed to occupy busy minds during long waits.

In a series of waiting room workshops, children made editions of postcards as they waited for appointments. In Units 5 and 6 at Merlin Park University Hospital, the printmaking process fostered reminiscence, stories, and laughter. Dispatched through the Post Rooms of Galway University Hospitals, the handmade postcards were sent between friends and strangers, patients and staff – unexpected greetings and mementos to brighten someone’s day. Alongside documentation of the process and cherished research materials, Saolta Arts is sharing a small selection of Offset’s cards as a heart-warming reminder of the small gestures that can make the hospital feel a lot more human.

Offset is supported by the Creative Ireland Programme’s National Creativity Fund and through core funding from Galway City Council, Galway County Council and Saolta University Health Care Group. The project was made possible by the generosity and insights of artists Aoife Barrett of Print Van Go and Margaret Irwin West, and the patients and staff of Galway University Hospitals.

Offset runs until 15 September 2019 at University Hospital Galway.

For ten years, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust provided a multidisciplinary Arts and Health programme to promote wellbeing and improve the hospital experience at Galway’s public hospitals. Saolta Arts will now work across five counties, making the hospital a place of possibilities at Saolta University Health Care Group’s seven sites.


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