Annual Report 2023 - Overview of the Year
Arts for Health Partnership Programme has had an exciting and successful year in 2023. Since January, we’ve launched our Strategic Plan 2023 - 2028, developed our Creative Carers programme, took part in training and celebrations with the wider arts and health community, and of course, continued supporting our Artist Team to facilitate collaborative, creative projects within eleven healthcare settings in West Cork.
The year began in DeBarra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty, with a celebration of the family carers who took part in the first iteration of our Creative Carers programme in 2022. Organised by Sarah Ruttle and Justin Grounds, the evening was attended by Creative Carers participants, members of the Arts for Health artists and administrative teams, and West Cork health care professionals from Community Hospitals and Day Care Centres. Featuring performances from musicians Lewis Barfoot, Eva Coyle, and Liz Clark, as well as fun creative activities and nibbles, it was an evening of conversation and connection enjoyed by all.
The new term of Creative Carers at Uillinn, a six week creative workshop series delivered by Sarah Ruttle, began in late February, with participants exploring West Cork land and coast through delicate wire sculptures and ink/watercolour paintings.
March proved to be a busy month for the arts and health sector. Arts and Health Coordinators Ireland celebrated their 20th anniversary, while Creative Brain Week returned to Trinity College Dublin for the second year. Uillinn Programme Manager, Justine Foster, delivered a case study on the Arts for Health Partnership Programme around the theme Imagination is Awesome: Caring Connect.
We were also delighted to be a finalist in the Health and Wellbeing (Large) category of the AONTAS Star Awards for making an outstanding contribution to adult learning. Attending the awards ceremony at Croke Park, Justine Foster stated, ‘The achievement goes to all the learners who were not able to make the event today and to the amazing artists, healthcare workers and partners who have realised the programme for the last 20 years.’
With Spring in full swing, we launched the new series of Creative Carers Musical Mornings with Justin Grounds. Held in the Green Dot café in Clonakilty, the mornings offered carers an informal and relaxed opportunity to connect with other carers in the community and explore ways of bringing music and creativity into their daily lives with those they care for. Discussing favourite songs, creating playlists, and exploring new rhythms and melodies, the sessions led us up to one of the busiest months of the year.
Age and Opportunity’s annual nationwide Bealtaine Festival returned this year with a full line-up at Uillinn and in the wider community. Arts for Health artist Sharon Dipity was awarded the Bealtaine/Cork County Council/Uillinn Artist Residency, which supports artists seeking opportunities to research and develop their practice and to engage with Uillinn, local communities, and the general public.
|Sharon Dipity, 2023.
Of her project The Line Has Two Sides, Sharon said, ‘I am particularly interested in translating my body’s movement to the page, the movement of the tracings made with my body, and working with other elements that have come into play during my research, including the wind and the tide. I have been working a lot with constraints and in The Line Has Two Sides, I will be looking at my body’s limitations as a constraint and developing movement and drawing from this. I particularly want to look at creating movement with an older body, to embrace and transcend its limitations and old injuries, to create my own fluid vocabulary of movement and gesture.’
Over the course of the residency, Sharon shared her work through an interactive workshop where participants were invited to explore mark-making, movement, and writing using a variety of drawing tools, as well as through her open studio every Friday.
|Bealtaine poster, May 2023.
The Bealtaine programme opened with a screening of The Last Train to Nowhere, a short multimedia film exploring memory and imagination within the theme of the West Cork Railways. Coordinated by composer and filmmaker Justin Grounds, the film was a collaborative piece made by participants on the Arts for Health programme in Skibbereen, Schull, and Bantry Community Hospitals, with visual artists Sarah Ruttle and Sharon Dipity, and writer Elizabeth Murray. The screening took place at Uillinn and in the hospitals on the 1st of May.
On the same day, an exhibition of artwork created on Uillinn’s programmes for older people opened in the Stairwell Gallery. The exhibition featured original artwork from The Last Train to Nowhere, Graffiti (From Cave Paintings to Graffiti Part 2), a project facilitated by Sharon Dipity at Skibbereen community hospital exploring graffiti around the world, and a new series of paintings by Arts for an Active Mind, a weekly art session facilitated by Paul Cialis, that has taken place at Uillinn on Monday mornings since 2002.
Toma McCullim’s project Salt and Pepper returned to Uillinn for a second year, inviting older members of the LGBTQIA+ community to create together, document, reflect on past and present challenges, and celebrate older rainbow generation commonality and achievements.
In the Picture, held on the 5th May, invited people living with dementia, and their friends, family or professional carers, to visit the gallery and look at and discuss the artwork in a safe and welcoming environment.
|Blanket Stitch, 2023
In the community, Bénédicte Coleman organised a series of Blanket Stitch exhibitions at Castletownbere, Dunmanway and Bantry libraries. The freehand embroidery pieces, created by participants on the Arts for Health programme, subvert the idea of sewing, darning and embroidery as a necessary household chore, or a way to gain much needed extra income, into a colourful act of unrestricted imagination.
Sarah Ruttle showcased our Creative Carers programme during Wellness Day in Schull Harbour Hotel. Organised by Carer and Older Persons Initiative and HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, carers from across West Cork were invited to a drop-in workshop to experience what the programme has to offer.
Bringing music to the month, the HSE Campus Choir with choral director Liz Clark, performed at Perrot House in Skibbereen. Finally, as a finishing flourish to a wonderful festival, participants on the Arts for Health programme with musician Lewis Barfoot released a special, a cappella, bilingual song from their project The Dunmanway Sessions.
Bealtaine Festival at Arts for Health was a celebration of the arts as we age, and offered opportunities to older people across West Cork to creatively participate in their community.
As the longer evenings of summer were quickly approaching, participants at St. Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital completed an art installation with Sarah Ruttle. Through the media of collage, watercolour, sculpture, and shadow drawing, and taking inspiration from nature, evolving seasons, and the circle of life, Behind the Closed Door is a practical and creative artwork for a glass door that divides the residents’ day room and the palliative care room balcony, allowing some extra privacy. One resident noted, ‘I always look at it. It’s lovely and clever!’
At the end of June we launched our Arts for Health Strategic Plan 2023 - 2028 and celebrated with a lovely event at Schull community hospital. Programme participants, artists, administration, and healthcare staff all working side-by-side came together to celebrate the occasion. We heard speeches from Róisín Walsh, Director of Nursing at Schull Community Hospital, as well as Deputy Mayor Cllr. John Healy, and Head of Primary Care, Priscilla Lynch.
The event was attended by many prominent figures including Head of Older People, Jackie Daly, local TDs Holly Cairns, Michael Collins, Christopher O’Sullivan, representatives from the programme’s partners (Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, Cork ETB, Cork County Council), and members of the Artist’s team. The Strategic Plan will provide an outline for our programme for the next 5 years, and we look forward to putting it into action.
Arts for Health was heavily involved in the wider community over the summer, holding events as part of West Cork Literary Festival, Skibbereen Arts Festival, and Clonakilty International Guitar Festival.
Museum of Birds and Beasts, a co-creation by residents of five community hospitals with Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley, returned to West Cork this July. The exhibition and book launch was held at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studio. Originally exhibited at Cork County Hall in January, the artists collaborated with the Museum of Country Life, the National Folklore Collection, and master basket maker Joe Hogan.
Following on from this, Tess Leak embarked on an highly-praised cello concert tour to Schull, Dunmanway, and Skibbereen Community Hospitals, as well as St. Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital. Accompanied by guest musician Diana Llewellyn, the duo were warmly welcomed by residents and staff alike.
Projects such as Where would you be going with a hat like that? with Sharon Dipity, Bog Walk with Annalene Rowland, and Seasons with Liz Clark continued at Skibbereen, Castletownbere, and Dunmanway Community Hospitals, Bantry General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Unit, and Castletownbere Day Care Centre.
|Taking Flight, 2023.
Dance artist Philippa Donnellan returned to the studio to continue working with Justin Grounds, Justine Cooper, and Tomasz Madajczak on Taking Flight, a developing theatre dance piece. The team of artists creatively engaged with health professionals, artists working in healthcare, and older people attending day care and long-term healthcare settings, along with the wider West Cork community. Participants on the Arts for Health programme at Skibbereen Community Hospital were invited to a special performance at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre at the end of the week-long residency.
In the middle of a busy summer, we welcomed Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing, and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, to Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre.
Minister Naughton and her team visited the beautiful Blanket Stitch exhibition, and met with Creative Carers participants Robin and Sally. Members of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme steering committee met with Ms. Naughton to discuss the importance of the programme and highlight the need for continued government support.
Minister Naughton welcomed the launch of the Arts for Health Strategic Plan and commented: “Communities shape many aspects of our lives, and engagement through creativity, physical activity and education can greatly enhance the health and wellbeing of the population.”
“I’m particularly keen to see the variety of programmes on offer for all interests and to see how wellbeing programmes are woven into daily lives for participants.”
The end of summer saw the launch of our Creative Carers Report 2022. The report provides an outline of the first year of the project, and strives to understand the successes, areas for improvement, and future goals of the programme.
Moving towards shorter days didn't slow our artists down, and a flurry of fantastic projects came to fruition during the colder months.
As part of Creative Carers, Sarah Ruttle brought In the Picture on the road to Bantry Memory Café. Artist Pascal Ungerer kindly gave permission for four of his paintings to be brought outside the gallery and into the community, where attendees of the memory café discussed and creatively responded to his work. Sarah also started a new iteration of Creative Carers at Uillinn, a six-week art workshop series open to family carers. The Creative Carers programme developed further with the addition of taster workshops delivered by Sharon Dipity in Mizen and Sheep’s Head.
|Michael Greenlaw, Beara Map Mural, 2023.
Places and Traces, an exceptional Beara Peninsula map mural was completed by residents and staff at Castletownbere Community Hospital alongside visual artist Michael Greenlaw. The artwork is now being used as inspiration for a music and film project facilitated by musician Ecki Krupp.
Michael Greenlaw also completed two more ambitious projects; an outdoor mosaic with participants at Dunmanway Day Care Centre, and a glass sculpture with Dunmanway Community Hospital participants.
Dunmanway Day Care Centre’s outdoor mosaic project, which began in summer 2022, took inspiration from mosaics around the world in Ukraine, ancient Greece and Rome, as well as closer to home inside the churches of Drinagh and Leap. The group incorporated images of local significance into their art, with each participant working on a panel which would come together to form the larger work.
Dunmanway Community Hospital’s glass sculpture, Through the Window, based around the theme of birds in the garden stands proudly amongst the hospital’s greenery, and is often admired by residents, staff, family and friends. In a similar fashion to the mosaic, each participant created their own panel, or multiple panels, which when put together formed the final piece.
Participants at Dunmanway Day Care Centre continued their exploration of mosaic creation with guest fibre artist Anne Harrington Rees. Their project, Tea Time Mosaics, centred around discussions of traditional Irish food, and resulted in individual and personalised coasters and tea pot stands.
October saw the return of Leap Scarecrow Festival, and Arts for Health participants at Skibbereen Community Hospital alongside Sharon Dipity worked hard to place their creepy creations amongst the town’s goblins and ghouls. Their project, Scare of Crows, won second place in the recycled materials category at the festival.
We also welcomed two new musicians to the Arts for Health team in October. Marybeth O’Mahony is a singer, musician, and lyricist from West Cork, and Kate Liddell is a multi-instrumentalist and composer studying for a masters in Music Therapy. We are delighted to have them on the programme and look forward to working with them in the year ahead.
Love Letters, a unique song-writing project facilitated by musician Liz Clark, came to life in the final few months of the year. Working with the queer HSE staff community, the project explored topics such as lives lived authentically, with recognition that sometimes it’s without a roadmap, and communities as a safety net from an often-unfair world, catching you when needed and ready to catch others when you can.
Love Letters is one of a number of once-off projects that took place this year. Sarah Ruttle completed Beyond the Darkness, a project researching ways of working with people with visual impairments, and Áine Rose Connell is currently completing her study of Parkinson’s disease and art. Liz Clark also developed a three-part Arts for Health podcast series, recorded in Skibbereen Day Care Centre, and released in November.
As the year drew to a close, Sarah Ruttle and Justin Grounds returned to Creative Carers at Home. These one-to-one sessions offer carers and the person they care for the opportunity to safely develop shared activities and explore their creativity with a professional artist in their own home.
|Members of the Arts for Health Artist Team with Programme Manager Justine Foster, 2023.
What a year! We are grateful for the hard work of the Arts for Health artist team, healthcare staff, participants, steering committee members, and administration staff, and we’re looking forward to doing it all again in 2024!