Art for Everyone: Paintings in Hospitals’ Artwork Selection and Co-curation activities

Paintings in Hospitals

Our project aims to involve patients and service users from health and social care organisations in the selection of artworks for their sites. Recognising the importance of placing patients at the centre of the decision making process, the sessions aim to support them to explore their opinions on a group of artworks, explore their tastes, and contribute to decisions about their display – and therefore gain ownership of their health or social care- site. The process aims to provide participants with important opportunities to take control and make choices, to build their confidence in talking about and engaging with art and to feel some control over their environment.
Through the Artwork Selection and Co-Curation Activities we aim to grow knowledge of the artistic preferences groups of people are likely to have, and to develop the art collections in response. As part of our Selection and Co-Curation Activities we have collaborated on three consultations to learn about the artwork preferences of three distinct groups: older people, children and young people, and people on the autistic spectrum.

The activities take place in one of three types of site: Hub sites, (hospitals around the UK that display the collection available to that region); online and, thirdly, the health or social care site in which the selected artworks from the Hub site will be installed. The project is ongoing and we aim to continue to develop and build on this important area of our work.

The following funders have supported specific areas of the project: Helen Hamlyn (‘Artworks I Like: Exploring Artwork Preferences with Autistic People’), Bagri Foundation (‘Older People: In Focus’), Arts Council (Tate Youth Forum consultation).
Paintings in Hospitals was founded in 1959 and was one of the first organisations to act on the links made between art and health. We use visual art to create welcoming and stimulating environments, conducive to improving wellbeing and promoting a positive image of care. Our exceptional, museum-quality art collection contains nearly 4,200 works, from artists of international importance. It is the first and only art collection that has been carefully and continually developed for the specific purpose of helping to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress. Over the last decade we have developed strategies to better support audiences of patients, service users and care staff to engage with the artworks. The Arts Selection and Co-Curation Activities maximise the impact of the collection.

Description of the arts activity

Artwork Selection and Co-Curation Activities are tailored to specific groups. Some common activities and approaches, however, run through the sessions. A selection of in-situ artworks or good quality prints are presented to a group of usually between 5 and ten patients. Discussions about the artworks are facilitated by curators from Paintings in Hospitals. This is followed by a selection process during which patients use smiley, sad and indifferent faces to vote for the artworks they prefer. Activities using images and descriptive words are also often used to support participants to think about how the artworks could interact with the space, where they could be positioned and how they could enhance the environment. Sometimes posters of the artworks are displayed where the artwork will be hung. The posters enable patients to get an idea of what the artworks will be like in situ. We found that this approach is particularly helpful when working with people with autism because it allows them to get used to the change in a familiar environment gradually, minimalising anxiety.

Details of the project participants

Participants are recruited from patients at health and social care sites about to be in receipt of a loan of artworks from Paintings in Hospitals. The sessions are designed for a wide range of participants, although some sessions are targeted at specific populations. Sessions are publicised by staff at the sites and participation is entirely voluntary.

Project management

The Artwork Selection and Co-Curation Activities are overseen by Amisha Karia, Head of Collections & Programming at Paintings in Hospitals, with the support of Regional Coordinators responsible for loans in different areas of the UK. Paintings in Hospitals staff have in depth knowledge of the art collection and expertise in both arts and health. The artworks in the collection are museum-quality, many by artists of national and international importance.

The activities are free to participants. Participants choose to participate and are free to opt out at any stage. All evaluation forms and other feedback are optional and anonymised and relevant consents are sought for use of information and photographs.

Evaluation methods and findings

The activities are photographed and written and verbal responses are logged. At the end of each session participants are asked to complete engagement feedback forms. Feedback indicates high levels of engagement and enjoyment of the sessions.
The activities have led us to continually evaluate the collection. The consultations with young people, older people and people on the autistic spectrum have led to a set of principles for the selection of artworks when working with these groups and to collections of artworks being specifically designed with each of these groups in mind. Whilst the principals are not prescriptive and sites can choose artworks from collections not specifically developed for their group, we have found they are helpful guidelines and starting points for selecting artworks. The way they have enabled us to develop the collection is an important outcome and has led to higher levels of engagement with the artworks.
We evaluate our artwork loans using before/ after questionnaires, designed to capture the impact of the artwork on staff and patient health and wellbeing. For each site we produce a summary sheet and a case-study based on the benefits of the artworks we have captured. The analysis of the questionnaires from each site suggest positive impacts, particularly on the care environment, and in improved communication between staff and patients. We recently employed a Research & Evaluation Associate to collate and analyse the data collected across all our sites. The results will be available on our website in 2017.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England