Artscape art blocks

Small painted blocks put together by the Oxford Clinic group

In July Health Matters was joined by Tom Cox, Artscape project manager, who talked about how patients interact with art and the wellbeing benefits of art in hospital settings.

From older people in the Echoes community group to male patients in the Oxford Clinic, one of our forensic units, Tom has worked across the trust to make art, music, poetry and dance a regular feature in our patients’ daily routines. Art can change people’s outlook and give people a voice, says Tom; after being told for 60 years they couldn’t draw, older people from Echoes have progressed from making collages to artwork which engages in their life and surroundings while making them feel artistic. The group have created photography projects about their lives, tried new mediums while blindfolded and written haikus and created sculptures with schoolchildren at the Museum of the History of Science.

Working at the Oxford Clinic was more challenging, Tom explains, as it took about six months before there was any real engagement from patients. “They don’t engage quickly,” Tom says, “you have to work out if they want to work with you and projects can take much longer.” But it’s all about starting small. Patients began by painting small blocks of wood which were eventually put together to form larger pieces of artwork now displayed on the clinic walls, giving patients a real sense of ownership and achievement.

This sense of ownership has developed in some of the trust’s new buildings too, where artwork is continually being created by our patients to decorate their surroundings. In the Highfield Unit, Oxford, a bespoke mosaic pattern adorns the walls and floors of the unit created in consultation with the young patients. Blank walls have been left in the unit to be filled with patient artwork, created through workshops led by artists, using and elaborating the mosaic motif and colour scheme.

In the Whiteleaf Centre, Aylesbury, a garden theme has been continued throughout the building featuring artwork from Chris Tipping and Tom Pearman, to name a few. Chris’ work was inspired by his research into the site, from the plants, trees and animals that lived there and even what was found in the garden shed. “Artwork is integral to the fabric of this building,” says Tom, and as the sun moves across the sky during his talk, the painted glass windows spread floral shadows across the room we’re in and it’s clear that every detail has been thought out to make this building a calm, comforting place for our service users.

The Artscape project also runs regular concerts in the Warneford Hospital chapel with a variety of musicians, the latest being British violinist Giles Lewin and cellist Danny Chapman. To find out more please email


Tom outlining the aims of Artscape