Lying in Wait
Lying in Wait was an artist in residence project with adult patients in Tallaght Hospital led by artist Deirdre Glenfield and supported by the National Centre for Arts and Health (NCAH).
This case study reports on two strands within the project:
a) The artist in residence creating new work in response to the waiting room experiences of patients at the hospital.
b) Patients’ own creative work facilitated through a mobile bedside in-patient art service.
Adult in-patients in three acute wards where the majority of patients have cancer, neurological conditions or palliative care needs.
The aims of the project were threefold:
- To provide adult in-patients in acute wards with the opportunity to take part in art making.
- To highlight the positive effect of art making within the sometimes negative or hostile hospital waiting experience.
- To enhance the awareness of health professionals through art of how vulnerable patients and families can be in the waiting room situation when they are faced with life-changing health implications.
Through the initiation of a mobile bedside adult in-patient art service, patients were exposed to the creative experience of painting or drawing as a way of expressing themselves. Artist Deirdre Glenfield introduced participants to a number of different processes, including painting with acrylics and drawing with soft pastels.
Participant Sonia McLoughlin gives an insight into the creative process: 'We started with window decorations, painted on acetate ... Most of my nurses and carers were gifted my creations. There were days I had a production line in place, each acetate with a specific destination ... After I had experimented somewhat with acrylics, Deirdre suggested I try to do something using soft pastels. Another step into the dark for me. I was clueless. Nonetheless Deirdre steered me through the basics and then let me at it. It was like another door opened for me. It was a re-ignition of passion lost. It reinvigorated my imagination and sense of expression which had been dulled for so long.'
The project culminated in the hospital art exhibition ‘Lying in Wait’ at RUA RED where patients were encouraged to participate through submitting their works.
In conjunction with facilitating work with adult in-patients, artist Deirdre Glenfield was keen to explore the waiting room as a site we are all familiar with but also uncomfortable with: 'The waiting room is a place of not just uncertainty, anxiety and vulnerability, but also one of hope. It is a place where we wait for examination, diagnosis, and reassurance. A time for reflection where life choices are scrutinised, personal promises are made and deals are done with God. In the waiting room, reality is suspended and a potential life-changing experience can occur.'
To research this process, Deirdre obtained permission from the Haematology Day Ward staff to sit in the waiting room and converse with patients about their waiting room experiences. These conversations were undertaken in an anonymous and confidential manner with full patient consent. The artist found that sitting in the Haematology Day Ward waiting room trying to talk to patients she had never met before felt a little like a salesman ‘cold calling’. As a result, she was more comfortable talking to in-patients she had already worked with and built a relationship with. Their stories of the waiting room when they were diagnosed with cancer formed the basis of ‘The Waiting Room’ video art work.
The 'Lying in Wait' exhibition opened at RUA RED Arts Centre, Tallaght in March 2015 featuring patients' artworks displayed alongside ‘The Waiting Room’ video artwork. Patients who participated, their families and hospital staff from the wards involved attended the launch.
The exhibition of patients' artworks will be on display on Hospital Street in Tallaght Hospital until October 2015. Photographic still images from ‘The Waiting Room’ video artwork will also be exhibited.
The project was evaluated in the following ways:
- Quantitative evaluation: The level of patient participation in the mobile art service and attendance of patients, their families and hospital staff at the opening launch of the 'Lying in Wait' exhibition at Rua Red.
- Qualitative evaluation through participant feedback and artist reflection. For example, the artist asked participant Sonia McLoughlin who she had worked with throughout the project if she would be interested in reflecting on her creative experience of the process from a patient's perspective. Sonia wrote a reflective piece on how the project had helped in her rehabilitation.
An evaluation of patient activity in the larger arts programme at Tallaght Hospital was conducted from February to April 2014.
Patients related how the project had enabled them to express themselves during sometimes traumatic experiences within the hospital environment and how it had aided their recovery. There was a sense of artistic achievement in having their artworks selected for the exhibition and an improved sense of wellbeing and self-esteem.
Through the project and engaging with health professionals, the artist learnt best practice approaches in the ward environment, such as medical issues of infection control, health and safety, how to best approach patients to offer the art service and what artistic media would work best at the bedside.
As the project progressed, better communicative relationships were developed between artist and staff resulting in more referrals from staff including nurses, clinicians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
One of the challenges the artist encountered was the need for more privacy and quiet spaces on the wards to enable her to provide a better experience of the adult art service. The NCAH is currently working towards improving privacy concerns for participating patients.
Staff and artists participating on the residency programme received positive feedback from patients and families about the artistic process with regards to the approach and methods of working. As a result, the mobile bedside art service has been extended with more patients and clinical teams participating.
'In a situation where patients often feel out of control, art can serve as a therapeutic tool, helping to reduce stress and anxiety and providing an opportunity for self-expression.' - Artist Deirdre Glenfield
'It has truly been a key to my rehabilitation, a break from my institutionalisation... and I am so thankful for it… [These programmes] bring joy and aid rehabilitation for people like me, they open windows for possibilities within ourselves and bring care and support for those who participate in the programme. It has been a great experience, one which I hope to be a part of for as long as I am a patient in Tallaght Hospital…'
- Participant Sonia Mc Loughlin (Sonia’s full testimonial can be accessed here)
An evaluation of patient activity in the larger arts programme at Tallaght Hospital was published in June 2014 and can be accessed here.
Documentation & Dissemination
‘The Waiting Room’ video work was shown at the Gender, Medicine and the Body conference in March 2015 at Trinity College Dublin. Artist Deirdre Glenfield presented the Lying in Wait project at the seminar 'International Perspectives on Art and Health - Sharing Best Practice Across the Continent' in May 2015. This seminar took place in the Trinity Centre for Learning and Development at Tallaght Hospital.
‘The Waiting Room’ can be viewed at the following link: https://vimeo.com/121695920
June 2014 - March 2015
RUA RED Arts Centre
The Meath Foundation
National Centre for Arts and Health, Tallaght Hospital
Nature of Project
Collaborative/ participatory, Exhibition, Residency