Common Ground. Photo credit: Hayley K. Stuart.

Common Ground. Photo credit: Hayley K. Stuart.

Common Ground. Photo credit: Hayley K. Stuart.

Common Ground. Photo credit: Hayley K. Stuart.

Common Ground. Photo credit: Hayley K. Stuart.


The artist worked with a group of young people between 14 – 17 years of age who access the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Waterford. The group varied between four to six young people each day. A member of the CAMHS medical team always supported the artist.


  • Social connection and inclusion
  • Increase the wellbeing of participants through arts experiences, playfulness and fun (reduce anxiety, boost confidence, increase self-esteem)
  • Encourage young participants to use their voices in the decision-making and direction of the project.


Ciara Harrison is a participatory artist (her work involves the participation of other people). Often this work takes place in hospital settings, for example in the waiting area or by the bedside, which brings its unknowns as to who will be encountered that day.

This particular project had more knowns and parameters. Common Ground ran each week day for three weeks and the art sessions lasted for an hour and a half. The decision to meet daily was to encourage familiarity and to build trust within the group through immersion. The artist felt that this way of working might ease the stress and anxiety that can come with showing up to a new group.

Where the project took place was an important consideration in the preparation and planning.  Although it was an arts and health project by its nature, it didn’t need to occur in a mainstream healthcare setting. In this instance, the participants would be able to travel to the project as opposed to it traveling to them. This brought them to an unfamiliar and impartial space in the art room of the Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts Centre for Arts + Health. This afforded the project a purposefully designed room with plenty of natural light, wall and floor space, equipment and appliances such as a sink.

Both the artist and Waterford Healing Arts worked closely with the CAMHS Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT) in the planning of the project, especially in terms of the number of participants, timings and scheduling, along with how best to introduce the project to potential participants.

This was the first in-person project to take place between Waterford Healing Arts and CAMHS since 2019. Since that time, staff had changed and the concept of working together on an arts project was very new to the team. Therefore, it was important to carefully establish a relationship and an understanding of each other’s practices and perspectives.

The artist also crafted individual ‘creative invitations’ that were subsequently disseminated by clinicians to potential participants – this enabled the artist to introduce herself before meeting the young people in-person, helping to alleviate any anxiety they might have felt about something new and unfamiliar.

Artistic Outputs

Various mediums and techniques were introduced and experimented with throughout the project. These included embroidery, needle felting, air drying clay, painting, poetry writing and jewellery. Jewellery and beading were instigated by the participants. Some work was individual such as the clay and needle felting. Other work was collaborative such as the painting. The collaborative work was introduced when the artist felt that trust and comfort had built within the group.

A beautiful series of postcards was created to celebrate the project. Photographs were taken by Hayley K. Stuart on the final day and were subsequently incorporated into a series of illustrated postcards by graphic designer, Sona Harrison. The postcards also captured anonymised quotes from the young people and staff who participated.

Evaluation Methodology

A qualitative approach was taken to evaluate the project. The artist, Project Co-ordinator from Waterford Healing Arts and the Clinical Psychologist from CAMHS met and discussed potential outcomes that were hoped for from the project. Three were identified, as seen in the ‘aims’ section of this piece.

Two short surveys were created by the Project Co-ordinator, one for the young people and one for the MDT. This data was collected and collated. For the MDT, the survey was disseminated via Survey Monkey. For the young people, the artist sat with participants to talk them through the survey and took a gentle approach to gathering feedback and thoughts.

Evaluation occurred at the close of the project and by this time trust and open communication had been cultivated. The artist also documented her experiences in a reflective journal. These experiences were shared with Waterford Healing Arts as a method of documenting successes and challenges that could inform potential future iterations of the project.

Evaluation Outcomes

It was wonderful to see each participant become more relaxed and confident as the weeks progressed. Many were quite anxious prior to starting and really “owned” it towards the end. Ciara has a great approach to facilitate this and the cohesion of the group benefitted from her gentle inclusive attitude. – Claire Jones, Clinical Psychologist

I attended a session and what I saw was extremely positive, both individually and group wise. Group interventions are not only very powerful but also highly efficient when it comes to resources limitations. Therefore, more groups could only be very welcome! – Mario Loureiro, Consultant Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatrist

I observed that the young people enjoyed each other’s company and had lots of common interests to talk about. At the last session the girls had arranged to meet up for a social outing at the weekend. One girl commented that she didn’t have friends before and now she had friends. All of the girls I observed participated fully in the art activities. They showed each other their work and complimented each other. They were observed to be calm and ‘in the zone’/in flow as they were creating art. All of the girls were able to assert their wishes in terms of the activities they wanted to participate in. – Anne-Marie Swift, Speech & Language Therapist

It was amazing, I made so many memories. – Amelia

Lovely group and loved all the activities. I loved talking to everyone and listening to everyone. I’m really glad I came. – Emma

I found it very easy to talk to other people while making things. I’d love to do it again. – Eve

I made new friends and this makes me happy. – Leah

Documentation and Dissemination

Photographer Hayley K. Stuart captured images of the artwork as well as hands in motion making new work. The photographs were taken on the final day of the project and this gave the participants an opportunity to curate their work for documentation. It was also an occasion for celebration and reflection as the work itself was a documentation of three weeks of working together.

Utmost sensitivity was required in the photography and the documentation of the project to ensure the privacy and anonymity of the participants. As mentioned above the photographs became part of the artistic output. The postcards served as both an artistic output and as a means of outcome documentation. They were printed in batches to be circulated across CAMHS and Waterford Healing Arts social media and website.


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Date of Publication

November 2023

Project dates

Summer 2022

Lead organisation

Waterford Healing Arts

Funded By

Mental Health Ireland, Arts Council, HSE


Ciara Harrison


Traditional Arts, Visual Arts

Healthcare context(s)

Children, Mental Health

Nature of project

Collaborative/ participatory




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