Since last autumn patients at Oxford Health’s six community hospitals have been receiving poetry and visual arts activities from the UK’s biggest art centre, the Southbank Centre in London. Their Art by Post booklets have been inspired by the art collection and artistic programme at the Southbank Centre and designed by artists. Oxford Health’s arts co-ordinator Angela Conlan has been including the booklets in the art carts that she has been providing to community hospitals since the Covid restrictions have limited on-ward activities and visits.
Ward manager Christine Hayden from the City Community Hospital is one recipient who has enjoyed Art by Post both at work and on her holiday.
“At the City Community Hospital, art classes are part of our rehabilitation programme, and our patients have really enjoyed them,” she says.
“When you are working on a piece of art, you really have to concentrate and it transports you away from your struggles and from the moment of being in a hospital in the middle of a pandemic,” she describes.
“Even if you can’t go for a walk outside, the ideas from the art booklets take you outside and evoke many lovely memories.”
Participants in the art classes have received tuition remotely from Angela Conlan and volunteer artists.
“The teaching sessions have been very popular,” confirms Christine. “The tutors take you through the work step by step, you are learning a new skill and even though people are sitting spaced apart, it is also socialising.”
Christine has enjoyed getting her own water colours out and setting to paint, inspired by ideas from Art by Post leaflets.
“It is such a nice outlet and helping with my work-life balance,” she says. “The booklets give you ideas – much better than staring at a blank page searching for inspiration! – and when I’m painting, I’m not thinking about the ward.”
Exhibition coming up
During the pandemic, the Southbank Centre sent out over 40,000 booklets and received more than 600 creative responses. Selected work will be exhibited at the Southbank Centre from September 20 to Sunday to October 3, 2021. The exhibition will then tour the country and will be on show in Banbury Museum, among other venues. An online exhibition will launch at the same time to connect those who are continuing to shield, or who are unable to travel, to the regional touring sites.
Curated by Persilia Caton, the exhibition will showcase creative responses to the activity booklets organised by themes such as nature, hope, sound and movement. Shaped by the isolating experience of lockdown, the artworks celebrate creativity and resilience.
Ahead of the exhibition opening in London, the project will be profiled this summer in an international World Health Organisation exhibition at the UN’s Palace of Nations building in Geneva as part of their Art Impact for Health initiative.
At the time of writing we don’t know yet if artworks from Oxford Health’s community hospitals will be on show, but earlier in June photographer Elena Gallina visited City Community Hospital to photograph members of staff for the exhibition.
“I will want to go and see the exhibition at Southbank,” says Christine. “It’s a huge honour if they are going to include something from City Community Hospital as they are the UK’s leading exhibition centre for modern art.”
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Published: 29 June 2021