Art might be good for your soul, but might it also be good for your health? Scientific research into the benefits of art therapy is extensive, and Cancer Research UK has said it can ‘help to control anxiety, depression and low self esteem; and help take [a patient’s] mind off pain or discomfort.’ Homerton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Hackney is one organisation that is attempting to harness the power of art to help its patients.
Funded by the charity foundation, Homerton Hope, the hospital’s artwork project has an impressive collection of over 600 works plus a programme of art-therapy workshops. As part of their on-going rehabilitation, patients are offered twice-weekly art sessions in the Creative Media Room, a custom-designed studio with easels, paints, palettes, and brushes. The artworks created here are displayed through most parts of the hospital. ‘Creating art improves their hand-eye coordination and lowers their blood pressure on a practical function and acts as a form of physiotherapy as well as providing patients with a sense of achievement—something to feel proud of,’ says Shaun Caton, art curator and programme manager. And for the viewer, ‘it acts as a stimulus for patients in public areas by giving them something that’s distracting; it empowers the patient, uplifts them.’
Tonya Chalker, fundraising manager, also has this to say; ‘You see these patients who can’t actually lift a paintbrush and within weeks they’re drawing and painting, it’s amazing.’
However, the art project relies heavily on donations as well as the time and effort of local artists. Tonya adds that Homerton is not a large hospital like Guy’s or Great Ormond Street, which often receives an abundance of donations from patients and celebrities. Instead, they ‘really rely on patient donations since it’s quite tough to get connections with the city or even the local community.’ Tonya adds, ‘we don’t receive much support from local businesses as many have their own charities. We’d love to have more interaction with local businesses to help raise our profile.’
‘Art is not an elitist activity, it’s something that everyone can enjoy,’ says Shaun. ‘It is about coming together as a community and reaping the wonderful and healing benefits of art together.’
For more information about the Homerton Hope Foundation, click here