The residency programme aims to create professional development opportunities for artists to produce new work within a healthcare context and to offer the hospital community access to contemporary arts practices at every stage in the artistic process.
The residency programme has accommodated a range of artforms including visual arts, music, writing and dance since its inception. In 2002, poet Mark Roper was WHAT’s first Writer in Residence. His invitation to staff, patients and visitors to write a haiku about their hospital experience resulted in a publication entitled Did you bring the socks?
In 2004/5, with funding from the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community Scheme managed by Create, dancer and choreographer, Libby Seward, piloted an action-research project entitled Back to Dance in collaboration with the Department of Physiotherapy and the Backcare Clinic which explored the relationship between Physiotherapy and creative movement/dance.
In 2007, Musician in Residence, Kevin O’ Shanahan facilitated music-making workshops with the clients of the Waterford Mental Health Service which led to the establishment of the WHAT Participatory Music Programme.
Every year, WHAT engages a Visual Artist in Residence through an open competition process. The selected artist spends six months producing a body of work in response to the acute hospital context for display in WRH. In some cases, the art is made collaboratively with the hospital community. In others, it is based on influence or input from the hospital. For example, in 2004 / 05, Maria Casey was fascinated by the hospital laundry which washes linen for thirteen hospitals in the South East and used hospital linen as a canvas for exploring the hospital experience.
In 2003, Brigid Teehan removed hospital objects from their primary medical function, and incorporated them into artworks and in so doing aimed ‘to reveal the blind spots of our awareness.’ During her residency in 2009, Laura Fitzgerald asked patients and staff to share a memory with her that she documented through drawings which contributed to the body of work entitled Once Upon a Time. During Emily Robyn Archer’s residency in 2010, the WRH postal system was infiltrated with unusual internal mail envelopes each containing a collaborative artwork. Material gathered through this project was animated by Emily and featured in her exhibition entitled The Post Room Project. In 2011, Maria McKinney is exploring the use of pastimes within the hospital setting.
Throughout the residency, the artist regularly meets with the Arts Directors for support and submits a written report to the WHAT management committee at the end of the residency period with reflections of the experience and recommendations for the future.
The visual art residency programme culminates in an exhibition of the artist’s work in Waterford Regional Hospital and, in some cases, in locations such as Greyfriars Gallery or the Central Library in Waterford in order to reach other audiences.
Mark Roper edited two anthologies of creative writing by staff, patients and visitors entitled Did you bring the socks? and A Wing and a Prayer.
Documentation and Dissemination
In recent years, WHAT has published a catalogue to support each Artist in Residence exhibition – see Once Upon a Time and The Postroom Project. WHAT also disseminates information about the residency programme to local and national media. In 2011, Claire Meaney and Emily Robyn Archer discussed Emily’s residency in the Jan-Feb Visual Artists’ News Sheet. Mark Roper’s residency featured in the Vital Signs exhibition that took place in Dublin in October 2009. An evaluation of Kevin O’Shanahan’s residency entitled Crossing the Line was published in the Journal of the Psychiatric Nurses Association of Ireland in 2009. Libby Seward presented the outcomes of her residency in a public seminar in WRH.
Various departments and services attached to Waterford Regional Hospital