Patients and families lifted out of the hospital experience - the impact of arts in our hospitals

03 August 2022
Resident Artist Rachel.jpg

Resident Artist Rachel Rothwell reflects on the impact of her creative practice during her first few months at St George’s Hospital Charity.

As our Resident Artists take a break over the Summer, after delivering their first few months of creative activities on site, we caught up with visual artist Rachel Rothwell, to learn more about her experiences making art with our community.

What sort of activities have you been running on the wards/ outpatient areas at St George’s?

I’ve been offering a mix of activities on the wards, from watercolour painting to bookmaking and illustration. It’s a unique space to work in, where you have to be very flexible, so I try to offer engaging activities that can be continued after I’ve left.

What does a typical day look like for you in your role as a Resident Artist?

Each day is different, and that’s something I really enjoy about this work! I tend to visit the paediatric and day wards in the morning, before popping in to see if any of the patients on Dalby and Thomas Young would like a visit. The hospital staff are really helpful and it’s great to check in with them to see if they have any suggestions. Often, you end up coming back to patients later in the day as they might have an appointment or lunch will arrive. I have found that can actually be helpful though, as it gives them some time to think about the activity and what they would like to do next without the pressure of an audience! 

Have you noticed your activities have had an impact on the patients you have worked with?

A short or long stay in the hospital can be a draining experience. It’s really lovely to see patients and families lifted out of that experience for a little while, whether it’s concentrating on filling an imaginary garden with plants or experimenting with oil pastels. One of my favourite things is to hear a child explaining what they have done afterwards to a parent or staff member, they are so proud of having made a piece of art! It’s also really rewarding to get to know patients and hear them talk about their lives as they create. I've met some lovely people with really interesting life stories that come out in our sessions.

Have you got any favourite moments from your time at St George’s so far?

It’s not easy to choose! There have been a few occasions where patients have learned a new skill and been so engrossed in the activity they are still creating as I pack up and go. That’s really nice to see! There are also lots of adults who say “I can’t do art!” or “I’m useless at drawing!” the moment they see you coming. Through chatting and a few drawing exercises, some find their flow and it’s great to see their confidence grow. It's never too late to try something new!

Are there any activities, themes or projects which you see emerging through the Resident Artist initiative in the future?

The observations of both patients and staff have really stuck with me. Many people are really interested in the skyline and what they can see from their window, and I’m keen to try to bring a bit more of the natural world inside through creative activities.

The Resident Artist initiative is produced by Arts St George’s, part of St George’s Hospital Charity. For more information, or to request for an artist to visit your ward or department, please see here.

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