Over the past number of years I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity in which to create artworks for a variety of healthcare environments mainly through the Per Cent For Art scheme in Ireland. Here are a few short thoughts on what I enjoy about the Arts & Health environment:
There is a marked difference in artworks commissioned for a health care context as opposed to an office building, a roadside or roundabout, etc.
Often in public commissions the artwork is expected to function as a type of entertainment or stimulus. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the expectation that with shiny materials, large scale, and prominent placement, we can wow the viewer and entertain them is rooted in very old ideas of art as a statement of wealth, power, and place in society.
What I like about developing works for a health care environment is that while this idea of art as entertainment is still present, it takes on a very different and more person-centred guise. Most of the commissions for Arts in Health use terminology that require the artist(s) to respond directly to a specific type of ‘service user’ or ‘patient’; removing the term ‘audience’ from the brief, and shifting the emphasis from art as entertainment to art as something more purposeful and personal.
The works still function as entertainment, but they take on a more functional and practical role. The artist(s) are asked to create works that can supplement and amplify feelings of wellness, acting as practical instruments that are more in line with the physical medical instruments and devices around them than with their counterparts in office buildings, roadsides, etc.
That’s all for now but I’ll try to keep adding to this over time!