Visual artist Sharon Dipity was commissioned by the HSE Cork Arts and Health Programme in 2014 to create site-specific artwork for Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre in Cork following a competitive tendering process. ‘Journeys’ involved the creation of a series of light boxes, made in response to conversations with staff and visitors and inspired by the history of the local area.
The artist consulted with Primary Care Centre staff, service users and Mahon Community Development Project Walking Group.
The aims for the commission were to:
- Create original site-specific artwork that has a positive visual impact on the physical space, in particular on waiting rooms and a connecting corridor. The (new) space was described as clinical in feel by staff and visitors, which was at odds with the community-focused nature of the centre.
- Assist with the development of a permanent multi-use exhibition space.
- Engage with key stakeholders including service users, staff and the wider community.
Sharon Dipity is a visual artist who has worked in Arts and Health settings for many years as an artist practitioner, primarily on the Arts for Health Programme in West Cork.
The artist aimed to use colour and light to transform the waiting rooms through a series of light boxes, and chose to use the locality and rich history of Blackrock and Mahon as the theme for this work.
In the initial meeting with the artist and the commissioners, it was decided that staff and visitors to the centre could best be engaged through informal conversations with the artist rather than workshops. Dialogue with members of staff took place in their work spaces, team rooms, the canteen, and in the corridor when time was tight! Conversations with visitors took place in the waiting rooms. These chats happened one to one or in groups, and the artist kept notes rather than recording the conversations as this seemed less invasive. The work created was a direct response to these discussions. Sharon also went on site visits in the area and then created the work in her studio.
Communication with staff was ongoing throughout the commission. The artist made 12 visits to the Primary Care Centre over a six-month period and kept staff up to date with the progress through regular emails. Staff were also encouraged to contribute additional thoughts and ideas by email and the title ‘Journeys’ was inspired by one such response.
The artist also engaged with Mahon Community Development Walking Group who shared their knowledge of the area over a cup of tea. One member of the group took Sharon on a tour of the area to show her places of interest.
The artist identified the corridor as the most appropriate place for the flexible exhibition space as this area of the Primary Care Centre had the most footfall. The type of exhibition framework suitable for the site was chosen in consultation with other professionals within and outside of the centre regarding practicality and safety.
The artist made seven light boxes including two lenticular pieces, a colour changing light box and a sculptural light box for the three waiting rooms. With the exception of the sculptural piece, all the light boxes were created from paintings and digitally printed onto light box film.
An art hanging rail was chosen for the flexible exhibition space (corridor) to allow work of all sizes to be hung and to enable canvases as well as framed pieces to be exhibited.
‘Journeys’ will be formally launched along with the inaugural exhibition in the new exhibition space in March 2016. The exhibition will include visual artwork from mental health service users who have been working with Arts + Minds Cork and Crawford Art Gallery.
The work was evaluated informally. The artist kept a daily journal throughout the process, recording conversations with staff and visitors, reflecting on the artistic process and as a diary. There was ongoing consultation with commissioners and staff to discuss progress.
Feedback from the artist included: ‘This is my first commission and I felt a big responsibility in creating work for the public and work that has to stand up to being seen every day. I found that I needed to keep checking in with my artistic integrity. One staff member gave me this piece of advice at the outset “Don’t forget you are the artist”. I found the staff receptive, interested, enthusiastic, open to the artistic process and more than willing to have an input into the project, offering books and information, suggestions for themes, colours, places that were felt to be special or of interest, such as the walk “Down the line” where I was told the early afternoon light is beautiful through the leaves and the arches. It was invaluable to have their professional expertise to draw on.’
Comments from staff and service users include:
‘Very colourful and great that the work was influenced by the local area.’
‘Beautiful work, my favourite is the piece that includes the ordnance survey map.’
‘I try to get a seat across from the work when I am waiting.’
‘A good start, but we need lots more artwork in the Centre.’
Feedback was not universally positive however. One staff member said ‘I like the one in the mental health waiting room, but for the budget I would expect a lot more‘. Another staff member said ‘very expensive for what was done‘. This highlights some interesting issues about how professional artists’ fees and work are understood and valued within a health context.
Another staff member added ‘I don’t really like it, reminds me of Chinese shops in Spain where you buy plug in pictures’. This is a valuable reminder that appreciation of and resonance with any artwork is an entirely individual and subjective matter, which of course makes for great discussion and can potentially inform new initiatives.
Documentation and Dissemination
The finished light boxes were professionally photographed and recorded on video in situ. Photographs were also taken throughout the project by the artist.
‘Down the line’ Video of colour changing light box showing the walk along the old railway line, Blackrock, Cork.
‘Blackrock Castle’ Video of lenticular light boxes. Each box shows two views of the castle through the ages.
HSE Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre
Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts
June to December 2014
HSE Cork Arts and Health Programme
HSE Cork Arts and Health Programme
Primary Care/ Community Health
Nature of project
Public art commission