Réalta, the national body for arts and health in Ireland, was officially launched on Friday 3 March 2023. Réalta has been established to strengthen the arts and health sector in Ireland and provide a central resource for all those interested and involved in arts and health.
The launch took place at the HSE-RCSI Educational Facility, University Hospital Waterford, with guest speakers Mr Christopher Bailey, Arts and Health Lead at the World Health Organisation, Prof. Kevin Rafter, Chairperson of the Arts Council, Grace O’Sullivan, MEP and Patron of Waterford Healing Arts, and Catherine Drea, Chairperson, Réalta.
Réalta will lead the development of the arts and health sector in Ireland through support, promotion and advancement, and the demonstration of excellence in artistic delivery. Réalta will achieve this through three key pillars of focus: training and supports, sector development and inspiring practice.
Réalta will develop and deliver a range of arts and health training programmes for artists, healthcare professionals and arts and health managers; provide access to information, mentoring and advice; support networking for arts and health practitioners; and engage with the HSE and other policy makers to increase understanding and support of arts and health practice. Réalta is core funded by the Arts Council and the HSE, and will be based at the Centre for Arts + Health at University Hospital Waterford.
Waterford Healing Arts (formerly Waterford Healing Arts Trust) has undertaken the establishment of this national resource organisation in light of its experience and leadership in arts and health practice in Waterford over the last 30 years, and nationally since 2008.
The establishment of Réalta is based on Waterford Healing Arts’ awareness of the need for a lead organisation at national level within the arts and health sector, which was confirmed in the outcomes of a comprehensive stakeholder consultation process carried out by the Board and Executive in 2021-2022. This consultation was part of a wider business planning process which also resulted in the development of a long-term strategy for the Réalta organisation and the re-branding of Waterford Healing Arts Trust to Waterford Healing Arts.
Waterford Healing Arts will continue to deliver its extensive arts programme at University Hospital Waterford and other healthcare settings, offering patients, family members, staff and artists opportunities to engage in high quality participatory programmes and environmental enhancement initiatives. In addition, as part of the wider Réalta organisation, Waterford Healing Arts will offer its programmes and systems as examples of good practice, and will continue to pilot new ideas and initiatives. This experience and insight will inform Réalta’s national training, support, advocacy and awareness programmes.
artsandhealth.ie, the national resource website, will continue to inspire and promote best practice via sector updates, case studies, commissioned opinion pieces and national and international resources. The site will also provide a substantial foundation of knowledge, constantly updated, for Réalta. artsandhealth.ie will be managed by Réalta, with oversight from an independent editorial panel.
“To have a national arts and health resource centre established in Ireland automatically puts you at the forefront of this global [arts and health] movement, and I’m honoured to be able to share this moment with you… In Ireland, much the same as in the US, these [arts and health] programmes begin locally and then become national. Waterford Healing Arts Trust was a local programme and now it has blossomed into something national, and that’s extremely exciting to me.” – Christopher Bailey, Arts and Health Lead with the World Health Organisation
“Your work has been hugely influential and has had an impact on subsequent hospital-based programmes that have been supported by the Arts Council. I know Réalta, in taking on the online platform artsandhealth.ie and Waterford Healing Arts, will continue to work with the Arts Council to promote health and wellbeing by improving quality of life and cultural access in healthcare settings.” – Professor Kevin Rafter, Chair of the Arts Council
“For me, as an old sailor, the word Réalta, star, is very very important, because in the old world of sailing, and navigation, it was the stars that guided us, so having Réalta now rolling out across the country and guiding others in the area of art and healing is very important.” – Grace O’Sullivan, MEP and Patron of Waterford Healing Arts
“Réalta is the biggest development in our organisation’s history. Waterford Healing Arts Trust has a decades-long history of bringing arts experiences to the bedside of patients at UHW and other healthcare settings in Waterford. We also have a national remit, to develop and promote the field of arts and health throughout Ireland. We have been fulfilling this role incrementally over the last 15 years, through an increasing programme of networking and training events, and through the development of the now internationally renowned resource website artsandhealth.ie, which provides an online encyclopaedia of information for the arts and health sector. The establishment of Réalta is a natural progression of our national work and we are very grateful to our core funders the Arts Council and the HSE for their vote of confidence in supporting us to take this significant step forward.” – Claire Meaney, Director, Réalta