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 artsandhealth.ie 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 artsandhealth.ie 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.