Art has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress levels and the need for pain medication in patients in hospitals. Katherine Mellor, Arts Director at Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity teams up with Rise Art to select a collection of work for the hospital. We sat down with Katherine to discuss art in hosptials and it's benefits to patients.
Chelsea & Westminster Hospital is recognized as being one of the leading hospitals in the UK - But people don't often associate hospitals with art and culture. How did the Arts in Health programme get started?
The hospital was built in 1993. A core group of staff believed passionately that exposure to the arts was beneficial to patients. They established the arts programme for the hospital and commissioned works of art which were built in to the fabric of the building. One former orthopaedic surgeon, James Scott, remembers sending and receiving a stream of faxes from Allen Jones as The Acrobat took shape. This piece is one of the most iconic in our collection and is still much admired. Many significant artists supported the programme at the very earliest stages and it has gone from strength to strength.
How have you seen the arts help patients at the hospital?
Our research tells us that there is a 34% decrease in depression among patients in the presence of art and a 31% decrease in the presence of music. Our free programme of live music and performing arts activities offers everything from Bach to bongo drums each Thursday lunchtime in the public atrium. When these musicians then perform for patients, the atmosphere is transformed. It is a very special experience.
The permanent collection at the hospital has grown quite a bit over the years, what are some of your favourite works?
At the moment my favourite set of works are our four Julian Opie lenticulars that are hanging in the Outpatients department. The use of a lenticular lens gives the illusion of animated characters walking in your direction of travel, I never get bored of it, and they even walk backwards when you do.
The hospital has put together a collection of favourite works on Rise Art with specific focus on the children’s ward- What works do you find inspire child patients?
Something that will help them to use their imagination, can distract them during their treatment and transform the Hospital environment works well. We are currently installing illustrations of ‘alien families’ across all of the children’s wards, these playful characters all have their own personalities and stories to engage children.
What's in store for the charity in 2013?
“Art is the Highest Form of Hope” according to Gerhard Richter. This is very much in our minds as we enter the final stages of our art and design work at the new Chelsea Children’s Hospital, and new projects in outpatients and adult burns. These redevelopments offer us exciting opportunities to introduce new artwork which will inspire, stimulate or bring tranquillity to patients here at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
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