Art for healing

Grampian Hospitals Arts Trust

If you’ve ever visited any of our local NHS hospitals, you’ll have noticed that the walls in the public spaces and corridors feature an enormous selection of paintings and screen prints. Art transforms the wellbeing of those who work in hospitals as well as those who are being cared for and their visitors. It’s the work of Grampian Hospitals Arts Trust, but there’s a lot more to the charity than just displaying pictures, as GHAT Director, Sally Thomson explains…

The Grampian Hospitals Arts Trust initially started as a project promoted by a local surgeon, Norman Matheson in 1985. He had seen paintings on display in a Scandinavian hospital and thought it would improve the ‘feel’ of our own hospital in North-east Scotland, so worked with lecturers at Gray’s School of Art and local arts organisations to pilot an art project in the hospital. Three years later, this was formalised as a charitable body called Aberdeen Hospitals Art Project, which became Grampian Hospitals Art Trust in 1990.

In the beginning, GHAT centred on brining art to those in hospital. As the organisation has grown, we have developed a full programme of creativity. This now extends into clinical spaces and encourages people
away from their beds to engage with and create art. We champion the concept that hospitals can be cultural
spaces to access art, over and above any clinical need and therefore demystifying the building – placing it within the community. GHAT concentrates on what matters to people rather than what is the matter with them.

ArtRoom is our patient-centred arts project, with five venues across NHS Grampian. The sessions are entirely organic, each participant decides whether to paint or draw, sculpt or work with clay. The trained artists advise and answer questions, supporting each person to be responsible for developing and producing their own work. The idea is to give choice back to the participant, taking the focus off their medical condition and treating participants as people, not patients.

Studies show that art helps patients with their physical, mental and emotional recovery on so many levels. Art is for everyone. It reduces stress and loneliness and provides opportunities for self-expression. At a time when patients may be fearful and uncertain about their health or undergoing medical interventions, the personal attention and knowledge given by professional practitioners of the arts can be especially beneficial. Some of the research may seem surprising, but we know that engaging in art in a hospital setting improves patient-carer communication, eases anxiety and depression, reduces reported pain levels and even shortens the length of stay.

We have over 4000 artworks in the GHAT collection at present and plan to fundraise by offering some duplicate works or those which can no longer be displayed for sale. We also have some exciting projects taking place this year, including Shared Collective History which will preserve and celebrate artistic heritage that connects people and place in the North-east of Scotland and Amplify, which seeks to help everyone engage more with the collection. At Inverurie Community Hospital, we are working with Paul Thompson and the local community on creating a new garden, as well as hosting some exciting exhibitions in the Suttie Arts Space. 

At GHAT, we’re keen for more individuals and business to help support the charity’s creative programme. Businesses can take part in our Art in Work Scheme, creating their own art with help from an established artist, while benefitting GHAT.

As well as donations via justgiving.com/ghat, people can become Friends of GHAT, take a tour or come along to a Friends’ Fundraiser. There’s lots of information on the GHAT Website at ghat-art.org.uk/fundraising/

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