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Posted 16.04.20

HE students transform hospital wards with artwork murals

By Naomi Girdler

From left to right: BA (Hons) Illustration students Kaitlyn Perrin, Jessica Hill and Chloe Riches

The NHS has been working tirelessly against the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak, and bright pavement chalk drawings and rainbow posters have become commonplace as people show their support for the frontline staff. But what about inside the hospitals?

Before the country-wide lockdown began, students from across undergraduate and postgraduate study at Plymouth College of Art assisted in installing bright and colourful murals in hospital spaces to encourage and stimulate staff and patients.

Within the Greenfields wing of Mount Gould Hospital, in association with charity Hospital Rooms, students from MA Fine Art, MA Illustration and MA Creative Education contributed to enhancing the space used by mental health patients, providing them with the opportunity to experience extraordinary artwork during their recovery. The Greenfields wing provides individualised care, treatment and recovery for women with severe and enduring mental health problems. 

Working with local artists such as Andy Harper, Damian Griffiths, Emma Talbot, and Steve Claydon, the students supported the artists painting and mounting their work on the walls of the facility. MA students Charlotte Matthews, Victoria Hemminghaus, Joanna Gosling and Matthew O’Halloran supported the installation of artwork by Cornwall based artists Nicola Bealing and Abigail Reynolds.

MA Fine Art student Victoria Hemminghaus

Joanna Gosling, student of MA Fine Art said: “Having worked previously as a Clinical Psychologist in the NHS, I think Hospital Rooms are doing wonderful work, enhancing the environments of both people in distress and the staff working in clinical settings.”

MA Fine Art student Victoria Hemminghaus said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the Hospital Rooms team are amazing. I was essentially masking off skirting boards and painting walls, but it was so nice to be part of a team, contributing to such a positive idea. It felt very valuable to be assisting in the project, knowing the effect it has on NHS staff and patients.

“Art is exceptionally valuable to healing. For an artist, it’s a form of therapy, but to someone who hasn’t had that exposure to art in their life, it’s introducing them to a form of expression they may not have considered before. If it leads to patients making art for themselves, then that’s incredibly important.”

MA Illustration student Matt O'Halloran said: “I am so grateful to Hospital Rooms for letting me help with this project, it was such a great experience. Art provides us an opportunity to express ourselves and from my experience, it’s been a tool for self-understanding and emotional growth. I look forward to helping the charity again in the future.”

Art being installed by Cornwall based artist Nicola Bealing

BA (Hons) Illustration students Jessica Hill, Kaitlyn Perrin and Chloe Riches also contributed to transforming rehabilitative spaces, painting a colourful mural on a wall in the Psych Neuro Rehabilitation Unit in Mount Gould Hospital. Second-year Jessica heads the Artists for Change Society at Plymouth College of Art Students’ Union, a society that works with charities and within the community to use art in positive and beneficial ways. 

Jessica said: “We started by sending over separate designs for the hospital to choose from, with the final design chosen being a Plymouth based lighthouse scene. The hospital provided all the materials and it took us about five hours from start to finish, but we were well looked after, being brought teas and coffees!

“Where you spend your time impacts how you feel and what you’re thinking. With hospitals, there’s so much going on that there’s not always a lot you can do to make it a nice space, but the walls don’t go away. If you can look over and see something beautiful, it can make all the difference.

“I started the Artists for Change society because I believe it’s up to us as artists to make the world a prettier place. I also believe that it’s important as artists to get together with other artists to create. It’s easy to get fixed in your own ways and stuck in a rut, so this allows for opportunities to get groups of artists together.”

BA (Hons) Illustration students with their finished mural

Katie Stokes, Occupational Therapy Practitioner at the Psych Neuro Rehabilitation Unit said: “I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the BA (Hons) Illustration students for all their hard work creating such an amazing mural. It’s really beautiful and makes such a difference to the main entrance of the ward, everyone loves it and it’s so welcoming! Art has such an impact on patients’ recovery and wellbeing, so the students should be so proud of themselves.”

Hospital Rooms was started by artist Tim Shaw and curator Niamh White after visiting a close friend who had been sectioned and admitted to a mental health hospital. They were shocked by the cold and clinical hospital environment, considering how vulnerable their friend was at the time. Together, they had the skills and creative connections to transform these spaces with high-quality artwork, meant to comfort and encourage patients, as well as get them engaging with creative workshops and practices.

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