Dance artist Helga Deasy, Fuse Arts & Health Programme, MusicAlive. Awarded the artist bursary 2020. Photo credit Clare Keogh.

The Documentation Bursary is an annual award funded by the Arts Council and the HSE. In 2020, shifts in practice due to the pandemic moved the focus of the bursary from documenting arts experiences in health settings to an artist-centred enquiry reflecting on personal approaches to arts and health practice. From 2022, two bursaries are being awarded: a Documentation Bursary and an Emerging Artist Reflective Bursary.

Applications for the bursary are published in April of each year on the Opportunities page.

Let’s Pause – A reflection by artist Catarina Araújo (2023)

Visual socially engaged artist Catarina Araújo designed her first arts and health project, Cocooning: Catch a Breath, with mental health professionals in Cork to explore their experiences of Covid-19. The need for time and space to pause, to take stock, reverberated throughout the project and has informed Catarina’s reflection, funded by the emerging artist bursary 2023.

The bursary afforded Catarina an opportunity to embark on a fresh phase of self-discovery as an artist. The time would become a time for play, for reading, for making new connections. She considers what she has learnt from the project and how the cocoon model might evolve to embrace other communities.

Read Catarina’s reflection

Dance Bualadh Bos (2023)

Dance Bualadh Bos is an interactive dance performance created in collaboration with dance artists Ailish Claffey and Philippa Donnellan and older communities in County Kildare. Simon Fitzpatrick’s short film, with original music by Brian Keegan, has been created as a lasting record of the project, capturing the workshop process and final performances, with insights from the artists, participants and partners. The film provides a powerful testament to the joy and meaning that dance can bring into our lives.

Wherever you go: Learnings from an emerging arts and health practice by Áine Rose Connell (2023)

Arts for Health Partnership Programme: Artists Sarah Ruttle and Áine Rose Connell, Bantry General Hospital, 2022. Photo credit: Sarah Cairns.

Áine Rose Connell, a visual artist and poet, was awarded the Emerging Artist Bursary 2022. She brings her background as a Speech and Language Therapist and her experience of collaborative poetry making to bear in Wherever you go, a written exploration of her emerging arts and health practice.

Áine considers how the SLT skillset, with its emphasis on enhancing communication pathways, can inform her work as an artist in healthcare settings, and provides insights into collaborative poetry methodologies in healthcare contexts.

Read Áine’s reflection

Material Language: Reflections on an arts and health practice by Ciara Harrison (2022)

Wild Thing (you make my heart sing), Ciara Harrison artist residency with Waterford Healing Arts Trust at University Hospital Waterford 2017.

Arts and health practice often involves engaging with people who are far from home and familiar spaces: encounters by the hospital bedside, in a communal room with others we have never have met, or increasingly in the virtual realm where we try to read each other across a screen of faces. How does an artist create a sense of space and place, of warmth and trust, in unfamiliar territory? How might objects and materials foster a sense of intimacy and connection? These lines of inquiry shape Ciara Harrison’s reflection on her participatory practice, funded by the 2021 artist bursary.

Read Ciara’s reflection

THE SINGING BODY: Personal Reflections on an Arts & Health Practice by Sadhbh O’Sullivan (2022)

Members of Voices of Spring with Sadhbh and dancer Philippa Donnellan on Zoom, March 2021.

Songwriter and musician Sadhbh O’Sullivan was awarded an artist bursary in 2021 to reflect on her music and health practice. THE SINGING BODY includes valuable insights into facilitation techniques, the application of breath-led approaches to participatory music-making and the development of a trauma-informed and grief-sensitive practice. Seen through the lens of the Covid pandemic, Sadhbh’s enquiry also addresses the shifts in practice required to engage the older population in music and song-writing experiences.

Read Sadhbh’s reflection

Volcano Days in the Writing Room by Sylvia Cullen (2021)

Writer Sylvia Cullen was awarded an artist bursary in 2020 to reflect on her 14-year creative writing residency at Killagoley Training & Activation Centre (KTAC) in Enniscorthy. Participants came from Wexford Mental Health Adult Services and were part of the Arts Ability programme, funded by the HSE, the Arts Council and Wexford County Council. Developing an artistic relationship with participants over this many years, a rarity in arts and health practice, has led to compelling insights and a rich body of artistic work, now captured in Sylvia’s audio reflection, Volcano Days in the Writing Room.

Dance and Health: Reflections on Empowerment and Transformation by Helga Deasy (2021)

Dance artist Helga Deasy, Fuse Arts & Health Programme, MusicAlive. Awarded the artist bursary 2020. Photo credit Clare Keogh.

Dance artist and choreographer Helga Deasy was awarded an artist bursary in 2020 to reflect on and interrogate her model for an empowering dance practice, specifically its applicability to her experience of working as a dancer in hospitals and care homes. Helga’s philosophy and participatory approach are captured in this short publication.

Read Helga’s reflection

Other People’s Practices: And More Besides (2020)

Image shown: Other People's Practices: And More Besides. Publication funded by the documentation bursary award 2019 © John Conway.

Other People's Practices: And More Besides. Publication funded by the documentation bursary award 2019 © John Conway.

Other People’s Practices brings artists and health service users of the Central Mental Hospital together to collaborate on projects. Founder and Director John Conway was awarded a documentation bursary in 2019 to create a publication about the programme. Other People’s Practices: And More Besides spans the first generation of sequential artist residencies undertaken by visual artists Emma Finucane, Glenn Loughran and Jonathan Cummins at Usher’s Island, a National Forensic Mental Health Service community centre in Dublin 8 for recovered and recovering service users of the Central Mental Hospital. The publication also covers the transition to a new phase of the project in 2021, in parallel with the relocation of the Central Mental Hospital to a new site at CMH Portrane, North County Dublin.

Read the publication

Stories from the Well-Field (2019)

Following a two-year residency in St. Joseph’s Unit, Bantry General Hospital, artist Tess Leak collaborated with a group of residents, puppeteer Eoin Lynch and composer Justin Grounds to create Stories from the Well-Field, bringing to life the residents’ poems about enduring childhood friendships. This short observational film by Sharon Whooley captures the remarkable performance by The Well-Field Company which took place in January 2019 at the hospital. The project forms part of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork.

The Second Hand of the Clock (2018)

A poet, a raconteur, and two nurses escape the clinical confines of dialysis to reveal how an Arts and Health programme enhances time and fosters human connection, long after their traces are wiped away by Actichlor. Set against the relentless routine of chronic kidney disease and the leafy grounds of Merlin Park University Hospital in Galway, The Second Hand of The Clock offers an intimate account of Saolta Arts’ dialysis arts programme, which was established in 2012 with an Arts Council Project Award. Directed by Marielle MacLeman and Tom Flanagan, and made in response to a series of interviews with patients and staff, the film articulates the connection between ‘human’ being and ‘placed’ being in a context that habitually extracts or excludes people from the places and things that matter to them.

ANIMA (2017)

ANIMA, directed by Colm Mullen, explores visual artist Marie Brett’s research on death and care. Marie traverses questions relating to our understanding of death and dying in contemporary Ireland through personal accounts and interviews with scholars and healthcare professionals. The conversations span medical, philosophical, folkloric and legal perspectives, offering an insight into the intimate and privileged moments of the artist/participant encounter. Marie’s research project Whispers? took place in collaboration with St Francis Hospice, Dublin, UCD School of Social Sciences and Law, and The National Folklore Collection.

Cloudlands (2015)

An intimate portrait of teenagers living with long term illness and the role of artistic practice in healthcare, this documentary by Siobhan Perry follows the Cloudlands artist in residence programme at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital. The Cloudlands Dublin project (2012-2015) was led by Helium Arts, the national children’s arts and health organisation, with artist Rachel Tynan, and sought to give young people an outlet for their creativity and imagination through one-on-one interactions at the bedside. The documentary highlights the creative lives of teenagers on the dialysis unit who collaborated with Rachel over an extended period of time.

The Room (2014)

Artist Tom Meskell facilitates the arts programme at Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. The Room, directed by Róisín Loughrey, sets out to explore the small moments of magic that happen in the course of Tom’s art classes, moments that allow for growth for both participants and the artist. Using a fly-on-the-wall approach, this film is a powerful and moving portrayal of the creative experience of long-stay hospital residents who have an acquired brain injury as a result of stroke, accident or conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s and reveals the profound impact of the arts programme on their lives.


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