Waiting for Me is a collaborative visual arts and health project exploring the experience of waiting in an active creative space in the Paediatric Outpatients Area of South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH). The project took place in 2018 and extended into 2019 with artist Brigid Teehan, healthcare staff and patients. The project is co-funded by Creative Ireland and Create.
- Patients and families who use the Paediatric Outpatient spaces.
- Staff who work in the Paediatric Outpatients department.
- Jayne Browne, CNMII, was the main point of artist contact and project adviser in Outpatients.
- To introduce an arts and health project to the Outpatients Department of STGH
- To develop the artist’s collaborative practice in a health setting
- To provide access to the arts for patients, visitors and staff
- To create awareness of and develop infrastructure for future arts and health projects within the hospital including partnerships with arts organisations
Research for Waiting for Me began in 2017 with the support of an Arts Council/Create Artist in the Community Scheme Research and Development Award. During this time HSE staff and the artist identified the Paediatrics Outpatients area as a suitable space to develop a collaborative arts project which could make a positive impact on the staff and patient experience. Staff were already responding to the needs of families while they waited for appointments, providing arts materials and crayons for colouring in A4 drawing templates. This demonstrated inherent support and infrastructure for an arts and health project in this area.
In September 2018, the artist returned to collaborate with staff and patients to tease out the experience of ‘Waiting’ and how it might manifest within an interactive area which families could enjoy beyond the timescale of the project. The artist spent time in Outpatients in November and December 2018 opening up conversations with families and using printed cards and flyers as a reference to connect with new groups of people.
The artist spent time talking, listening, drawing, note taking, sharing dry art materials (crayons, acrylic sticks, oil pastels, coloured pencils, markers) and coloured paper for doodling; being open to the rhythm of the space and what might emerge. The children responded with their own subject matter, embracing writing, animation and storytelling with images and text. The artist also began to cut out shapes of clouds on white card to be filled in which led to requests for other 2D cut outs (horses, an oval paper frame for a girl’s face) that could be incorporated into the space.
Sometimes conversations between families/people using the space and the sharing of personal stories influenced the kind of artwork that was made. Family members, animals, insects, the sun, trees, houses and flowers were common themes in the children’s work. Rainbows were also a popular motif which inspired Brigid to paint the horseshoe ‘art’ table within the space as a rainbow. This new school table was primed, painted with acrylic paint and varnished.
The walls were blank before Brigid’s arrival and covered in coloured-in printed templates. The artist wanted to respect the spirit of the creativity already happening and to provide an opportunity for the children’s work to be framed for a period of time. Following consultation with staff, the background blue colour was added to the wall by a professional painter. Brigid then created a nature-based environment, painting the tree, grass, clouds, and rope for the interactive frames. She also painted two wooden boxes and attached them to the alcove opposite the tree to allow for reading books to be arranged.
The thinking bubbles/cloud motifs were a play on looking at clouds and projecting your thoughts or daydreams. The idea was to allow families the space to think rather than creating a space with lots of visual stimulation and subject matter. The mural was a way of foregrounding the frames as bunting or hanging on a line, a visual pun. The trunk of the tree was partly suggested by the column that protruded into the space.
Following the completion of the project, the waiting area remains an art-making and display zone that encourages creative interaction.The children are invited to create their own artwork which they can display in the frames or take home, a tangible positive memento of their hospital experience. The painted wooden art materials box and the paper topped up by staff actively encourage drawing/colouring. The 10 frames are the focal areas of the background scene and are ever-changing.
Artworks created by participants for the wall display in the Paediatric Outpatients waiting area are constantly updated. These physical artworks connote happy associations of the hospital experience for other children visiting Outpatients.
A staff workshop organised as part of a Happy Healthy Hospital event was an opportunity to share the Waiting for Me project with a wider group of HSE staff. The artist organised a slide show and a creative session ‘Doodling a bug’. The staff art-making session resulted in various artworks.
Waiting for Me was launched during a quiet time in the Outpatients Department at the end of the project.
An independent evaluation of Waiting for Me was commissioned by artist Brigid Teehan and STGH to assess the impact of the project. The evaluation was led by Edelle Nolan, Arts Officer with Cork University Hospital, St. Luke’s General Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny and Wexford General Hospital. The evaluation looked at the artistic process, facilitation methods and collaboration with the hospital staff and made recommendations based on the findings of the artist, staff, patients, families and the evaluator. Long-term strategic recommendations were also included for further arts and health work at STGH and community primary healthcare settings in South Tipperary.
The artist produced an interim project report and a final report.
Participant feedback was acquired through a comment box in Paediatric Outpatients and staff provided input via meetings organised by the artist. The artist’s reflective journal also supported the evaluation process.
The evaluator gave the following indicators to demonstrate that projects aims were met: Conversations, positive interactions with children, families and staff, the creative use of the space in Outpatients and the artwork populating the space.
The artist observed that the space is very emotionally charged, yet dignified. One participant provided feedback that the opportunity of art making with his child made him feel ‘he was valued’. It helped him cope with being in the space and was calming. He showed the artist pictures on his phone and his favourite art from elsewhere. His daughter wanted to engage him with her art. This was a clear indicator of the benefit of creative activities that help to engage both parents and children and how art making can be a bonding experience for parent and child.
This was the artist’s first collaborative arts and health project in STGH and the project has enabled her to make valuable connections with HSE staff and the wider community. Brigid Teehan is keen to develop and support access to the arts for all in this hospital community.
One challenge was to adapt to the limited availability of busy HSE staff without the support of a designated hospital arts co-ordinator creating the link between the artist and staff. Another challenge emerged during the project as the artist realised more time was needed to complete the work and requested an extension from funders. The artist overcame the challenges of the initial timeframe and held onto the integrity of the patients’ work along with her own vision to reach its conclusion.
While the artist had many ideas, it was not feasible to include them all in the project. Incorporating the ideas of participants and staff was very important and also to work to a reasonable timeframe. Key staff members suggested including interactive elements in a follow-up project with timber, puppets, or paper-based animals that could be placed on the tree mural in the Outpatients waiting area.
The artist would like to add artistic elements from the art space to the full waiting room area, for the benefit of other users such as older people. These would include cloud motifs, meditation seats, and mindfulness colouring of the thought bubble as a paper shape.
Documentation and Dissemination
- The artist produced a reflective journal and sketchbooks of drawings and notes.
- Photographic documentation.
- In June 2019, the artist was invited by the Quality Office to take part in ‘Wellbeing Wednesday – Time for you’ as part of the activities of the Happy Healthy Hospital Group. The artist used the opportunity to share information about Waiting for Me within the hospital in addition to other arts and health projects by the artist and others.
- Copies of artist reports and bound copies of the evaluation report by Edelle Nolan were given to key staff. One copy of the evaluation report was left for public reading in Outpatients.
Tipperary County Council, Create
Date of Publication
September 2018 – September 2019
South Tipperary General Hospital
Creative Ireland and the Arts Council's Artist in the Community Scheme managed by Create. Support from South Tipperary General Hospital.
Acute Hospitals, Children
Nature of project
Collaborative/ participatory, Exhibition, Residency