Art at the heart of healthcare at Liverpool Hospital

The-Healing-Hospital-Arts-Project-Adrian-ElmerWith a rapidly growing need to support the mental health of frontline healthcare workers, Liverpool Hospital has launched a creative and artistic initiative to tackle the challenge.

Titled The Healing Hospital Arts Project – Creating Wellbeing Environments, the Hospital has filled the walls of the Mental Health Unit and the nearby Children’s Ward with curated local art that changes every three months. In short, the Hospital has become a dynamic gallery.

The project just experienced its first rotation, with the Spring 2020 Collection now on display featuring a total of 33 artworks from 6 local artists, covering themes of community, imagination, and spring warmth.

“By bringing the visual arts into the Hospital, it has created an extraordinary environment and has transformed the experience of countless patients, visitors and staff,” said Dallas Rae, Allied Health Director, Mental Health.

Miriam Cabello, Resident Health and Arts Consultant and lead of the Project, is responsible for introducing the curatorial and educational model that connects art with health.

“Based on the success of the program to date, our vision is now to transform all Hospitals in the South West Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) into similar ‘Wellbeing Environments’,” said Ms Cabello. “Our aim is to be a leader in providing innovative art and healing programs that address mental health and wellbeing.”

And there’s scientific evidence to back this up. The World Health Organisation recently concluded that art plays a major role in improving health and wellbeing, with some studies showing that art-enriched environments can reduce stress by 15%. Furthermore, places that exhibit art encourages self-reflection and group communication, all of which facilitate the therapeutic and healing process.

“The Healing Hospital Arts Project has really brightened up the community waiting room and corridors,” said Dr Claire Jones, Director, Mental Health. “Everybody loves it, and I often hear conversations amongst staff and consumers about which are their favourites. These initiatives make a genuine impact and renews our focus on wellbeing, while also supporting local artists and the local community.”

For artists, this opportunity has been equally rewarding. Reena Naidu, an artist on display during the Winter 2020 exhibition, had this to say: “Having gone through hard times in my own life I know what it is like to experience the stress, sadness and trauma that comes through life’s challenges and knowing that I can contribute to someone’s happiness and uplift them,” she said.

The program is sponsored by Australian arts social enterprise ColourSpace Gallery, that have spent the past couple of years transforming the offices of the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Victorian Governor Solicitor’s Office, and various corporate spaces into galleries. In doing so, they have contributed over $50k to local emerging artists. All artworks are displayed for sale, with 75% of all sales going directly back to artists.

“Regularly changing artwork is a simple way of constantly creating fresh, dynamic spaces for people to be in,” says Scott Ko, Founder of ColourSpace Gallery. “These changes can continuously trigger a sense of relief and escapism, that improves mental health for staff and patients alike.”

Image: The Healing Hospital Arts Project featuring the work of artist, Adrian Elmer (supplied)