Well Festival 2015 at University Hospital Waterford. Photo credit: Keith Currams.

The team at Réalta, the national resource organisation for arts and health, are responsible for the management of artsandhealth.ie. They are happy to help with specific enquiries. Health and social care professionals 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 info@artsandhealth.ie or phone 051 842 664.

Please note that arts and health practice in Ireland refers to non-clinical arts initiatives led by professional artists. Arts and Health includes arts participation (where an artist collaborates with health service users or staff in creating work), receptive arts engagement (e.g. concerts, performances, screenings) and environmental enhancement (e.g. art collections, exhibitions, public art commissions). Arts Therapy is a separate area of practice led by trained arts therapists. If you are interested in learning more about arts therapies, visit the website of the Irish Association of Creative Art Therapists.

Getting Started - The Basics

If you are interested in developing an arts initiative in your health setting, you should first check whether a dedicated arts department, committee or programme is already in place.

If your workplace has an arts department or programme, the Arts Officer or Co-ordinator will be able to provide you with information on current areas of activity and priorities, and may be able to support you in the development of your proposal. However, they may not be in a position to provide funding or resources as these will often be allocated for a specific plan of work. The Arts Co-ordinator can advise you on the feasibility of your proposal, best practice and standards, and recommend funding avenues. If your proposal involves an artist collaborating with health service users or staff, the Arts Co-ordinator can provide guidance on artist recruitment and training, partnership approaches, ethics approval, health and safety considerations etc.

If there is a dedicated arts committee in your health setting, find out who is involved and approach the Chair for information on current areas of activity and priorities. Some arts committees may be limited in scope e.g. their focus may be on enhancing the healthcare environment via an existing art collection or exhibitions rather than on providing participatory arts experiences for service users or staff. If you want to initiate a project that falls outside of their remit, they may be able to provide advice but may not have funding or resources to support project development.

Check out our Directory of organisations and contacts to find out who is operating in your area. You will find contact information for regional arts and health programmes, independent organisations, HSE initiatives, local authority arts offices, national resource organisations, cultural institutions and networks. Please note that the Directory is not a comprehensive database. If your workplace is not included here, please revert to the relevant personnel in your setting to see if there is an arts programme in place.

If your workplace does not have an arts programme or committee, the team at Waterford Healing Arts Trust can advise you on project development and potential funding avenues: info@artsandhealth.ie or phone 051 842 664.

You should also consider getting in touch with your local authority arts officer. Many local authorities have a Creative Health and Wellbeing remit, supporting and developing arts and health initiatives as part of the government’s Creative Ireland Programme. In the Directory you will find information for county and city arts offices, including their arts and health aims, areas of activity and contact details. If your local authority arts office is not included here, check the Association of Local Authority Arts Officers website for contact information.

Menu of Poems 2019. Photo courtesy of Saolta Arts.

Starter Projects - Keep it Simple

If you would like to bring the arts into your health setting but you’re unsure where to start, consider getting involved in an existing project.

For example, Menu of Poems is a national initiative which takes place each year to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland (the last Thursday in April). Menu of Poems takes the form of a short anthology of poetry which is circulated on meal trays in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Participating healthcare providers often organise readings and workshops on Poetry Day Ireland. The anthology is currently produced by Saolta Arts on behalf of Arts and Health Co-ordinators Ireland, and is supported by Poetry Ireland and HSE Health Promotion and Improvement. If your hospital or healthcare facility would like to take part in Menu of Poems you can email saoltaarts@hse.ie for more information.

Advice from a healthcare professional 

Theresa King worked as a Senior Medical Scientist at the Haematology Laboratory in the Pathology Department at Connolly Hospital until her retirement in 2021. A practising visual artist, Theresa founded the Connolly Collective in 2015, an art group which supports the enhancement of Connolly Hospital for patients, staff and visitors. Here she offers advice for healthcare professionals interested in developing an arts programme: 

It’s not something you can do alone. Consider who you would like to invite to help you because the people really matter. And then of course you must bring your ideas to the powers that be. Ours was only one idea: can we have an exhibition? But there must be something about just one thing that is like a sounding board and helps gain trust. We did give the artwork on permanent loan to the hospital, that raised interest and was genuinely appreciated. So, start with a ring-fenced project, something that will spark people’s interest, see what the response is like. Then get in touch with others who have done this before like Waterford Healing Arts Trust and Tallaght Hospital and listen to their experiences. 
(In Conversation: Theresa King, Scientist and Artist)

To help you to get started, you might also look to established projects for inspiration. Our case studies explore the development and implementation of projects across a wide variety of art forms and health contexts.

Making the case

There is a substantial body of evidence to support the benefits of arts interventions in healthcare, both nationally and internationally. Since the 1990s, when arts programmes in hospitals and community health settings were first established in Ireland, research has been undertaken to explore the methodologies and impact of this field of work. Our History in Ireland timeline provides links to significant policies, research and guidelines.

The first-ever report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the evidence base for arts and health interventions was produced in 2019. The report maps the global academic literature, referencing over 900 publications, including 200 reviews covering over 3000 further studies. As such, it is the most comprehensive evidence review of arts and health to date.

For the first time since the implementation of the Healthy Ireland framework in 2013, the Healthy Ireland Strategic Action Plan 2021–2025 includes priority focus areas for arts and culture. You will find other relevant policies in Policies & Strategies and a selection of reports on the benefits of arts and health practice across different health contexts and artforms in Research & Evaluation.

Soothing Sounds at Tallaght University Hospital with musician Sophie Lee. Photo credit: Tommy Walsh (TUH).

Best Practice

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

The Arts and Health Handbook, published by the Arts Council in 2003, is a practical guide for setting up and managing arts projects within health and social care settings in Ireland. While some of the content is now outdated, the Handbook provides useful information on the basics of project development and delivery, including setting objectives, ethics, drawing up a plan, artist briefs, health and safety issues, evaluation and general administration.

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

Arts and Health is a professional field of practice, delivered by professional artists. Artist pay and contracting are guided by the Arts Council’s Paying the Artist policy. This document includes best-practice principles, legal and legislative considerations. An accompanying document lists representative and resource organisations with links, where available, to their fee guidelines for different artforms.

If you are looking for specific examples of good practice that relate to your area of healthcare, the case studies on artsandhealth.ie showcase a diversity of arts and health projects and programmes throughout Ireland and internationally, providing insights into methodologies, partnership working, evaluation structures and outcomes.


Arts and Health practice in Ireland receives funding from a variety of sources. Key funders include local authorities, the HSE, the Arts Council and the Creative Ireland Programme (Source: Mapping Arts and Health Activity in Ireland in 2019, Arts & Health Co-ordinators Ireland, 2021). Funding also comes through sponsorship / philanthropy, foundations, charities, arts organisations, healthcare institutions, private fundraising and the National Lottery.

Sourcing funding for an arts and health project will depend on the nature of the project, who is applying for funding and where it is happening.

Most of the funding opportunities available are for projects in the area of arts participation i.e. where an artist or artists is collaborating with health service users, staff, families or visitors in the creation of work.

Funding from an arts agency or body is normally predicated on an artist or arts organisation (e.g. the arts department within a health setting) being attached to a project. The artist / arts organisation will submit the funding application on behalf of the project and will be the grant / award recipient. In most circumstances, it is not possible for a non-arts professional to apply for arts funding from national arts agencies.

For example, the Arts Council Arts Participation Project Award provides opportunities for artists and arts organisations to collaborate artistically with non-arts professionals such as a healthcare community. While the proposal might be developed in partnership with healthcare professionals, the funding application and grant monies are the responsibility of the arts organisation / artist.

The HSE distributes National Lottery funding to groups and organisations who provide Health and Personal Social Services on an annual basis. Amounts of between €500 and €10,000 are available for suitable projects. Information on criteria and how to apply can be found here.

Creative Ireland, an all-of-government culture and wellbeing initiative, runs a programme called Creative Communities. In each of the 31 local authorities the Creative Ireland Programme has established a Culture and Creativity Team which brings together local expertise in arts, heritage, libraries, enterprise and community engagement, to foster collaboration and spark new initiatives. A local Creative Ireland Co-ordinator has been appointed for each local authority and will be able to advise on funding / development opportunities for arts and health initiatives. Find your local co-ordinator here.

The government’s Keep Well campaign supports a number of initiatives through the Healthy Ireland Fund, with funding distributed via local authorities. There is a specific strand called ‘Switching off and being creative’ providing a range of initiatives to support individual and community creativity in the arts, crafting, culture and heritage. Each local authority, with advice from the Creative Ireland Programme, decides how funding will be allocated. Contact your local Arts Officer to learn about what funding and supports are currently available.

For the latest funding opportunities, check out our Opportunities page. If you need advice or support in writing funding applications, contact the WHAT Team: info@artsandhealth.ie or phone 051 842 664.

Training & Professional Development

Waterford Healing Arts Trust / artsandhealth.ie will be delivering a programme of networking and professional development supports for healthcare professionals later in 2022, supported by the HSE, the Arts Council, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Creative Ireland Programme) and the Department of Health (Healthy Ireland Programme).

These customised resources and supports will be aimed at healthcare professionals involved in the development, programming and delivery of creative programming as part of health system delivery. There will also be specific supports for healthcare professionals new to this area of work who are interested in developing creative programming in their settings.

Keep an eye on our Opportunities and Events pages for further information.

Rose Window by Conall Cary and Peter McMorris, Waterford Residential Care Centre, Per Cent for Art Commission. Image credit: Conall Cary.

Per Cent for Art Scheme

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 and arts departments within health settings.

A new work of art can encompass a range of artforms and include all types of contemporary arts practice. Art work developed through the Per Cent for Art Scheme can be project based, temporary or permanent. Participatory engagement with staff, health service users and visitors may form part of the artist brief.

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

Examples of public art projects in health settings, including Per Cent for Art commissions, can be found in our Public Art case studies.

Publicart.ie 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 editor@publicart.ie for advice. If you have specific queries relating to healthcare contexts, you can email WHAT at info@artsandhealth.ie.

For insights into Per Cent for Art Scheme commissioning in healthcare settings, check out this video of an online conversation hosted by artsandhealth.ie 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.

Anam Beo, Got It? Men, Music, Movement at Riada House, 2018.

Arts for older people in care settings

Age & Opportunity is the national resource organisation promoting greater participation by older people in society. Their dedicated arts programme provides professional development, creative supports and networking opportunities for organisations and individuals who work with older people:

Creative Exchanges is an accredited training course (QQI Level 6) for activity co-ordinators in care settings and people from an arts background with an interest in working with older people. Participants develop the skills needed to plan and facilitate arts activities for older people in either residential or day care settings.

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.

The Azure programme gives people living with dementia and those close to them the opportunity to take part in specially designed tours of museums and galleries with facilitators trained in dementia-inclusive art programming. Some of the arts venues that are part of the Azure network also provide art viewing experiences in care homes and hospitals. A list of participating cultural institutions can be found here.

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:

  • The Arts and Creativity Toolkit for Care Settings, launched by Age & Opportunity in 2021, is designed for use by managers and staff, in particular creative activity co-ordinators, as well as non-arts professionals interested in arts in care contexts. This practical Toolkit is intended to provide straightforward advice, knowhow and useful videos for people who want to bring more creative activities into care settings and to get the most out of working with artists.
  • 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 practice 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.

Where I can go for advice?

Réalta, the national resource organisation for arts and health, manages artsandhealth.ie. Health and social care professionals seeking advice on any area of arts and health practice can arrange an advice session with Réalta via phone, Zoom or in-person at the Centre for Arts + Health in University Hospital Waterford: email info@artsandhealth.ie or phone 051 842 664.

Eleanor Moore is the HSE South representative for arts and health and her contact information can be found here. Other regions do not currently have a dedicated HSE Arts and Health representative.

Many local authorities have a Creative Health and Wellbeing remit, supporting and developing arts and health initiatives as part of the government’s Creative Ireland Programme. In the Directory you will find information for county and city arts offices, including their arts and health aims, areas of activity and contact details. If your local authority arts office is not included here, check the Association of Local Authority Arts Officers website for contact information.

Age & Opportunity, the national resource organisation promoting greater participation by older people in society, has a dedicated arts programme. Organisations who are working creatively with older people or who wish to develop arts and health initiatives can contact the arts team for advice or information. If you have identified a need in relation to supporting networks or best practice, the arts team is also keen to hear from you. Contact arts@ageandopportunity.ie or phone 01 805 7713.


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