Ciara Harrison artist residency with Waterford Healing Arts Trust at University Hospital Waterford 2017.

The Advice section will be updated on an ongoing basis. However, the information included here is not intended to be a catch-all. There are many different entry points and pathways, and while some health contexts and artform areas are specifically referenced, others are not. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch with us at

If you are looking for tailored advice, the team at Réalta who manage the national arts and health website, are happy to help. Artists seeking advice on any area of arts and health practice can contact Réalta to arrange an advice session either by phone, Zoom or in-person at the Centre for Arts + Health in University Hospital Waterford: email or phone 051 842 664.

Arts and Health practice in Ireland is distinguished from Arts Therapies and Arts and Disability. Please read What is Arts and Health? first if you are unsure about what this work entails.

Arts and Health practice refers to non-clinical arts initiatives led by professional artists. If you are interested in learning about arts therapies, which focus on clinical outcomes, visit the website of the Irish Association of Creative Art Therapists. The national resource organisation for arts and disability is Arts & Disability Ireland which supports artists with disabilities, provides access services to the arts for audiences with disabilities, and supports arts and culture organisations to adopt an inclusive approach to audience development.

Getting Started

This section has general relevance to all practice areas but has particular applicability for artists working across all art forms who would like to develop a collaborative arts and health practice (i.e. where the artist is collaborating with individuals or groups within a healthcare setting). For artists interested in performing for healthcare audiences, exhibiting artwork in healthcare spaces or creating site-specific public art for these spaces, please see the relevant filters above.

It should be noted from the outset that employed artist positions within arts and health organisations or healthcare settings are relatively rare. Most artists working in this area do so on a freelance basis. Freelance work might include facilitating a specific programme with one organisation on a long-term basis or delivering projects across a range of organisations and contexts. There are many different types of engagement from residencies to one-off projects to longer-term programmes. A number of arts and health organisations, cultural institutions and national agencies with an arts and health remit engage a team of artists or associate artists on an on-going basis. See the Directory for information on some of these organisations.

Many artist opportunities are for one-off projects. However, these opportunities also provide scope to build a relationship with an arts and health organisation or healthcare setting, to develop your arts and health practice in new directions, and provide a solid footing for future work.

As a starting point, you should carefully consider why you want to work in this area, whether there are particular health communities you would like to engage with (acute hospital settings, mental health contexts, older people, children, palliative care etc. require different considerations and approaches), and do some research before applying for opportunities or funding or approaching a health setting with a proposal (see the Best Practice filter above).

You should also research what is happening in your area. Does your local authority arts office have an arts and health programme? Do the hospitals, care centres or other healthcare settings in your county have arts programmes? The Directory includes a map of who is operating in your area with contact information. If your local arts office does not have an arts and health remit, then you have also identified a gap and potentially an opportunity to put forward a proposal.

In general it is harder for artists with no experience of collaborative arts practice in any context to gain a foothold in this field of work. For example, an artist residency with children in hospital may not require previous arts and health experience but it may prioritise artists with a collaborative practice that includes engagement with children and young people.

If you are new to the collaborative arts or a recent graduate, you should seek out professional development and training initiatives, peer learning via mentorship awards and shadowing work with experienced artists, and opportunities to connect with others and hear about inspiring practice via networking events and seminars. Create is the national development agency for collaborative arts and offers advisory support for individual artists.

For artists at all stage of their careers, the Opportunities page provides information on residencies, open calls, bursary awards, professional development, training and mentoring initiatives. Scope for research, exploration and mentoring are provided by the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community Scheme, which is managed by Create, and the Agility Award. Local authority arts offices often have funding initiatives centred on community development and you should always check in with your city / county arts office to find out what funding streams are currently available.

Seminars, webinars, talks and networking events are included on our Events page. The more you connect with what’s currently happening in the arts and health field and learn from the work of your peers, the better equipped you will be to write funding applications and project proposals.

Always seek advice before approaching a healthcare setting with a project proposal. If the setting has a dedicated arts programme, the Arts Officer / Co-ordinator should be your first port of call and the Directory will provide you with relevant contact information. Please note that the Directory is not a comprehensive database and you should conduct own your research if an arts programme is not included here.

If a healthcare setting does not have an arts programme, you should think carefully about submitting an unsolicited proposal or offering to volunteer to gain experience. In the first instance, the setting may not be equipped to bring on an artist, may not have specific training or induction protocols for artists, and may not have an understanding of professional arts practice or budgetary requirements. While volunteering provides experience on the ground, it may not lead to paid work. Also, without the support of an Arts and Health Co-ordinator, artists may find it more difficult to build relationships with healthcare staff, navigate health and safety protocols, insurance, ethical and professional boundaries, and the many other challenges that can arise.

Lastly, if you are thinking of developing a participatory project for a specific cohort in healthcare, that cohort will want to know that you’ve thought about their particular setting, that you are aware of the sensitivities involved in working with people who may be at a very vulnerable point in their lives, that your approach is person-centred. Developing a project is a project in itself; you will need to build relationships and trust with the people you would like to work with, find out about participants’ interests and passions and how they might like to work with you, and be aware of potential barriers to what you are proposing (e.g. Covid protocols impacting on in-person work). Come prepared and with an open mind.

Best Practice

The Arts Council’s Arts and Health Policy and Strategy (2010) provides a framework for this field of work.

Two good introductory resources are An Introduction to Arts And Health: 10 Things to Consider (Mary Grehan, 2016) and Participatory Arts Practice in Healthcare Contexts (Mike White, 2009), both published by Waterford Healing Arts Trust.

The case studies on showcase arts projects / programmes across a range of health contexts and artforms throughout Ireland and internationally, providing insights into methodologies, evaluation structures and outcomes.

Training: Overview & Introductory Courses

Artists do not require specific training to work in healthcare settings. Health settings and arts and health programmes will provide their own training and induction processes. There are currently no third level courses in Ireland specialising in Arts and Health. However, there are accredited courses focusing on aspects of arts and health practice, arts in health modules within related disciplines at graduate and post-graduate level and specialised training initiatives. There are also a number of third level courses with applicability to arts and health practice (e.g. with a focus on socially engaged practice).

Check out the filters above for information on third level courses in Ireland and the UK and specialised training programmes in the areas of older people, music and dance.

As new training and professional development opportunities arise, these are added to the Opportunities page.

Introduction To Arts & Health

Online courses for artists are offered by Central Saint Martins in London and Wrexham Glyndŵr University in Wales.

Health and Wellbeing through Art Making: Central Saint Martins (Online)
Over this 10-week course participants will explore both the practice of creative wellbeing and art making while understanding some of the key positions around the arts & health movement in the UK. The course will show how the arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care including ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and physical activity. Students will produce works of art throughout the course. All levels of experience welcome.

Introduction to Arts in Health: Wrexham Glyndwr University (Online)
This 9-week online course is aimed at giving students an overview into the use of art in health work. It is ideal for artists or healthcare professionals interested in studying for a Masters in Arts in Health, or those wishing to work with the arts in healthcare settings.

Arts and Health Research Intensive
Presented by the Arts Health Early Career Research Network, University College London, and the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, this annual course provides a rich introduction to the evidence base around arts in health and fundamentals of evaluation and research. Taking place over 5 days each May, the programme venue alternates between Snape Maltings’ Creative Campus in Suffolk and the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Third Level Courses in Ireland

There are currently no third level courses in Ireland specialising in Arts and Health. However, there are accredited courses focusing on aspects of arts and health practice (see the relevant sections below). There are also third level courses with applicability to arts and health practice and arts in health modules available to fine art students at graduate level:

Studio+ National College of Art and Design (NCAD)
Studio+ is an optional additional year of study open to undergraduate students in Design and Fine Art. Studio+ combines accredited work and/or study placements, allowing students to build a bespoke learning experience to suit their particular skills and ambitions. The Art with Health and Well-Being module is open to all Year 2 BA Fine Art Students and provides an opportunity to learn and work in a healthcare context, including via an ongoing partnership with Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing (MISA) at St James’s Hospital.

MA in Arts and Engagement – MTU Crawford College of Art and Design
This Masters prepares graduates to develop a professional practice in arts rich engagement with individual, group, and broader societal contexts. The applied nature of the course enriches the graduate with practical tools and skills while adapting methodologies to diverse settings.

MA in Social Practice & the Creative Environment – LSAD
This taught MA programme is based on the study of the theory and practice of socially engaged creative practice and the production of work based on these principles. MA SPACE is delivered online and supported by West of Ireland based gatherings.

Certificate in Arts in Group Facilitation – MTU CCAD
The Arts in Group Facilitation Certificate (level 8, 10 credits) focuses on the practical skills of planning and running creative workshops with groups in a range of non-formal contexts.

Certificate in Socially Engaged Theatre – MTU CCAD
The socially engaged theatre programme is a Level 8 certificate comprising of two 5 credit assessed modules. Through experiential learning, this course provides an opportunity to explore socially engaged theatre theory and application within a group setting.

Postgraduate courses in the UK

MA Arts Practice (Arts, Health and Wellbeing): University of South Wales 
This course is located within the practical world of Arts and Health, where arts practitioners work on the improvement of health environments through arts interventions, or in raising awareness of health issues through the delivery of artworks and events, or through offering individuals and groups practical experiences/projects/workshops that aim to improve wellbeing.

Creative Health MASc: UCL, London
The MASc in Creative Health is the first of its kind in the world, both in terms of the qualification (Masters in Arts & Sciences) and the academic field of study (Creative Health). The programme is designed to teach students how to connect scholarship with professional practice and policy in the fields of arts and health, social prescribing and community-based approaches to public health.

MA Arts, Health and Performance: Canterbury Christchurch University
This multi-disciplinary Masters examines the potential of arts, performance science and artistic practice to enhance health, wellbeing, education/training and performance. Theories, research and practice within disciplines of psychology, philosophy, sociology, physiology and pedagogy will be related to elite and participatory/inclusive arts contexts. There is engagement with research and practice throughout the programme and there is an opportunity to develop an independent research project that can take different forms such as practice/performance-based or lab-based.

Creative Arts and Mental Health MSc: Queen Mary University of London
This programme offers an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge and research, with a particular emphasis on theatre and performance in the creative arts. Jointly run by the Centre for Psychiatry and the Department of Drama, you will learn about the application of the creative arts to research, practice, education, advocacy and activism in the field of mental health.

Image courtesy of Kids Classics

Image courtesy of Kids Classics

Music and Health: Professional Development

At present, Kids Classics is the main organisation in Ireland providing training for professional musicians interested in developing their practice in health settings.

Kids Classics is Ireland’s leading music in healthcare organisation. Their Training Notes programme offers training courses and mentoring opportunities to musicians and healthcare professionals. Please see the Training Notes Facebook Page for the latest courses or contact Kids Classics for further information:

MA Community Music – Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, UL
The MA in Community Music is a one year, full-time postgraduate programme offering a comprehensive grounding in the skills and knowledge needed to function as a successful community musician in a range of contexts. Throughout the course, students will meet a range of practicing community music facilitators and researchers, who work in a variety of settings from orchestras to community centres, schools to hospitals. Students undertake a placement and facilitate 12 hours of community music workshops.

MA / PG Cert Voice Pedagogy: Singing for Health – Voice Study Centre UK
This course provides an academic pathway to facilitate the study and research of Singing for Health. Students will be at the forefront of innovation in this programme, with an opportunity to engage in Masters level practitioner research focused on Singing for Health and Well-being, culminating in a Voice Pedagogy MA. Students on this pathway have examined the impact of singing on blood pressure, strategies for working with lung health groups, working with stroke, chronic pain, mental health, postnatal depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Image shown: Artist Jo Nichols (centre) working with the Arts + Minds Time to Dance group. Photo by Ger McCarthy.

Artist Jo Nichols (centre) working with the Arts + Minds Time to Dance group in Cork. Photo by Ger McCarthy.

Dance and Health: Professional Development

Dance Ireland offers professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities for dance artists in specific health contexts and areas of practice. Initiatives include Dancing with Parkinson’s Practice, an introductory one-day course, and an annual networking day for dance artists working with older people, run in conjunction with Age & Opportunity. Please check the Dance Ireland What’s On page for information on current initiatives.

Best practice examples of international Dance in Health training and projects are included in the Dance and Health Research Project Report (2018, Moss, McLoughlin, O’Donoghue), funded by the Arts Council Invitation to collaborate scheme 2017 and led by Kildare County Council, Kerry County Council, Tipperary County Council and Dance Ireland.

Image shown: End of residency temporary interactive installation

Orchard Stories: Bealtaine Artist in Residence Joanna Hopkins: End of residency temporary interactive installation, with participating carers and service users. Image credit: Tony Kinlan Photography.

Arts for Older People in Care Settings: Training and Resources

For artists interested in developing their practice with older people in community contexts, care settings and other healthcare environments, Age & Opportunity, the national resource organisation promoting greater participation by older people in society, provides professional development and networking opportunities. Visit the Age & Opportunity Artists’ Professional Development Training page for information.

Creative Exchanges
Creative Exchanges is an accredited training course (QQI Level 6) led by Age & Opportunity for anyone leading creative activities with older people in care settings. Participants develop the skills needed to plan and facilitate arts activities for older people in either residential or day care settings. The course brings together practitioners from different arts disciplines and others with related expertise to discuss different approaches and to lead participants in arts activity.

Dementia & the Arts: UCL
This is a free, self-guided online course hosted by FutureLearrn and developed by University College London where you can learn at your own pace. The course is for anyone interested in understanding the role of arts-based practices in dementia care.

Supporting Networks and Best Practice is an Age & Opportunity initiative which aims to support organisations and artists who work with older people and to promote best practice. A new pilot scheme, Speed meeting for slow art, provides creative networking for artists and organisations who work with older people. Through a meet, greet and exchange session, older person organisations and professional artists can chat about creative ideas and see where there is potential to work together in the future.

There are great resources, including guidelines and toolkits, exploring arts practice with older people in our Resources section. To get started, you might look at the following:

  • Guidelines for Working with Older People in the Arts: Produced by Age & Opportunity, these guidelines include practical advice on facilitating meaningful, high quality arts experiences with older people.
  • Dementia & Imagination: This handbook is a set of useful ideas and recommendations that come from a robust research project in the UK setting out some foundations for developing visual arts projects with and for people affected by dementia.
  • Discoveries in Distanced Arts: This report, based on research led by Entelechy Arts and Queen Mary University of London, shares learning on how to develop remote arts programmes for older adults.

For examples of best practice across different health contexts and arts practice areas in Ireland, including projects adapted and created during the pandemic, check out our case studies – older people.

Please note that it remains a challenging time for connecting and collaborating with older people in health and social care contexts due to the impact of the Covid pandemic. Project proposals should be cognisant of current restrictions and may need to consider alternatives to in-person working.

For an overview of bringing your practice to health and social care settings see the Getting Stared filter above.

Image shown: Oak by Tom Molloy at University Hospital Waterford. Photo credit - Hugh O’Brien Moran.

Oak by Tom Molloy at University Hospital Waterford. Photo credit: Hugh O’Brien Moran.

Exhibiting artworks in healthcare settings

Healthcare settings often have environmental enhancement initiatives, featuring work from their own art collections, temporary exhibitions and the commissioning of permanent artwork. Even if a setting does not have an arts programme, they may have an arts committee whose remit is focused on enhancing the healthcare environment.

Open calls for exhibition proposals can be found on the Opportunities page of and on the Visual Artists Ireland website. It is important to note that opportunities to exhibit or create commissioned artwork for health environments are relatively rare compared to opportunities to create work in participatory contexts. Also, some health settings will prioritise exhibitions featuring work created in collaboration with patients, families and staff, or will include participatory engagement with health service users / staff as part of their public art remit.

As a starting point, you should consider what type of healthcare environment will best suit your work (a paediatric ward will obviously have very different priorities to a residential unit for older people) and why you feel your artwork will enhance a particular health setting.

Before approaching a healthcare setting or arts and health organisation with a proposal you will need to consider the following:

  • Is the work appropriate? If you’re not sure, seek advice first before making an approach. (See below on artists creating work about their own health experiences).
  • Who are you approaching? You need to send your proposal to the right person e.g. the manager of the arts programme, the hospital arts officer, the chair of the arts committee etc. If this person doesn’t exist, find out who looks after the art displays.
  • Collate the artwork into a PDF portfolio with an artist’s statement on the first page and a description of the overall theme. Outline dimensions and media for each artwork. Include your CV within the portfolio.
  • Your covering email should outline why you feel this artwork would be beneficial in the setting you are approaching and the type of audience you are hoping will experience it (e.g. will the exhibition work best in public areas where health service users and visitors will see it or would it be something for staff areas only?).
  • You will also need to outline health and safety aspects in your proposal: how will the work be displayed? Can it be easily wiped down and disinfected? If it is wall-mounted, is the work framed and ready to go? Some hospitals and other health settings supply their own frames for health and safety reasons. If the work is not wall-mounted, where will it go?
  • Budgetary aspects: Will the work be on sale or is it for exhibit only? If the intent is purely commercial, seek to exhibit the work elsewhere. Health settings may not have the time to deal with work for sale. On the flipside, they may agree to exhibiting the work for sale in lieu of exhibition fees. Do not assume that there is discretionary funding for exhibitions or that health settings will understand the need for an installation fee. They might expect that the work is being offered for display on a pro-bono basis. Ask what their policy is in this regard.

Artists living with health conditions who have created work exploring their experiences may feel this work has a natural home in a space with others who have faced similar challenges. However, health settings are often reluctant to display this type of artwork, especially if it deals with the hard-hitting aspects of illness. They may worry about the work causing an adverse reaction and upsetting patients. Research other spaces outside of health contexts that may be more suitable. For example, an arts centre with a history of exhibiting work touching on health or wellbeing aspects would be a good place to start.

For inspiration, The Arts Council Collection in Healthcare Settings provides an insight into artwork by Irish artists currently on loan in Irish hospitals and other health settings.

Image shown: 'Meander'

'Meander', Run River Run: Per Cent for Art Commission, University Hospital Galway.

Per Cent for Art commissions in healthcare

The Per Cent for Art scheme is a government initiative whereby 1% of the cost of any publicly funded capital, infrastructural and building development can be allocated to the commissioning of a work of art. Since 1997 this scheme has been made available to all capital projects across all government departments. The Scheme was updated in 2019 with new investment bands and maximum limits.

The applicants for this funding become the commissioners (in health contexts, this can include HSE Estates, healthcare organisations, arts departments within health settings etc).

For information on the scheme, including the commissioning process and implementation, please refer to the Per Cent for Art National Guidelines.

A new work of art can encompass a range of artforms including architecture, circus, dance, film, literature, music, opera, street arts and spectacle, theatre, traditional arts and visual arts, or any combination of the above, and include all types of contemporary arts practice (e.g. performance, installation, live art, multimedia, video art, sound art etc). Art work developed through the Per Cent for Art Scheme can be project based, temporary or permanent.

Please note that the artist brief will outline the parameters of the project and that permanent artworks are often sought in health and social care settings. Participatory engagement with staff, health service users and visitors may form part of the brief. Examples of public art projects in health settings, including Per Cent for Art commissions, can be found in our Public Art case studies.

Tenders for the Per Cent for Art Scheme and other public art commissions are advertised on the Opportunities page of, and on the Visual Artists Ireland website. It is important to note that tenders are not always promoted via these sites and that opportunities to create permanent artworks for health environments are relatively rare.

In addition to tenders and open calls for specific healthcare environments, there are occasionally opportunities to apply for a place on a Public Art Panel, with opportunities to submit proposals for various commissions within designated HSE areas. These opportunities are rare but are promoted on the Opportunities page as they arise. is an online resource for artists, commissioners and researchers who wish to find out more about commissioning artwork through the Per Cent for Art Scheme. If you are managing a Per Cent for Art project for the first time, you can email for advice. If you have specific queries relating to healthcare contexts, you can email WHAT at

For insights into Per Cent for Art Scheme commissioning in healthcare settings, check out this video of an online conversation hosted by in 2021 featuring Claire Meaney, Director of Waterford Healing Arts Trust, George O’Neill, Project Manager for HSE Estates in the South East, and artist Conall Cary.

Music recital at Tallaght University Hospital

Performance arts in healthcare settings

Some healthcare settings, particularly acute hospitals and care environments for older people, include performance-based work as part of their arts programmes. Most often, these take the form of concerts, recitals, choral performances by health staff choirs, and dance performances. Theatre within healthcare in Ireland is much less developed than music or dance.

Performers are usually invited by health settings, who may have a particular remit e.g. prioritizing work created in collaboration with health service users and staff, providing opportunities for local artists and initiatives, and hosting tie-in events with local festivals (Cork University Hospital hosts seasonal concerts as part of Cork International Choral Festival and Cork International Jazz Festival) .

Situating performance-based work within a health or social care setting can be challenging. Performances will often take place in public spaces, both indoors and outdoors (the latter proving especially important during the pandemic). Performances in wards or by the bedside are usually carried out by specialist organisations (for e.g. the music programmes of Kids’ Classics and Waterford Healing Arts Trust) or by performers with specialised training. This is because these more intimate spaces require performers with an understanding of the setting and needs of participants. Whereas the ability to choose whether to listen may not be as big a factor in a large, airy public atrium, it will be a key factor in more intimate, private spaces. Patients, staff and visitors should always have the choice to opt-out.

Open calls for receptive arts experiences are rare so if you are interested in bringing your work to a healthcare setting, you should first look at the Directory to see which organisations and programmes host performance-based events. You should also consider the suitability of the work for health settings, your audience and how you might tailor the work to fit the setting, and the type of spaces that you will have to work with.

Where I can go for advice?

Réalta manages the national arts and health website. Artists seeking advice on any area of arts and health practice can contact Réalta to arrange an advice session either by phone, Zoom or in-person at the Centre for Arts + Health in University Hospital Waterford: email or phone 051 842 664.

If you are new to the collaborative arts, and are interested in developing collaborative work with healthcare communities, Create is the national development agency for collaborative arts and offers advisory support for individual artists.


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