Art for health’s sake

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The ‘Weaving Wellbeing’ project, installed in the Orange Base Hospital cafeteria courtyard, was designed and created through community workshops in Orange and Condobolin and features woven plants and animals with significance to Aboriginal people across the region artworks.

Can art really make a difference to health outcomes in a clinical environment? Brad Hammond, curator of the Orange Health Service’s ground breaking Arts and Health strategy, believes it can.

“While we cannot claim that the arts actually heal people, we do know that having access to original works of art and other arts programs in healthcare environments contributes significantly to a sense of wellbeing,” Brad explains. “It provides positive distraction. Engaging with the arts helps to shift the focus for patients, families and their staff.”

Increasingly, art is used as a tool to encourage wellbeing in the health sector – it is an exciting and expanding field of study (see Arts and Health Australia). The award winning Orange Health Service Art and Health Strategy is a partnership between General Health, Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Service, Orange City Council, Orange Regional Gallery and the community. It incorporates a range of creative projects, mediums and themes including sculpture, photography, landscaping, historical displays, murals and terrazzo which have been installed throughout the Orange Health Service.

“I would like to comment on the positive effect that the artwork around the hospital has on my daily work life. In particular the piece outside Community Health at present; After the Wet: Echo Island by Elizabeth Cummings. I exited Community Health last week and felt a warmth created by the amazing colour and presence this piece exudes. It was like a ray of sunshine. It has brightened each day since in the same way.” – Nurse specialist in Community Health, Orange Health Service

One key project is the ongoing display of works from the Orange Regional Gallery’s permanent collection throughout the General Hospital and Bloomfield Psychiatric Hospital.

Art collections in hospitals and medical centres are not uncommon. What sets the Orange Health Service strategy apart from others is that it is one of the first such initiatives in the world in which a major public art collection is loaned to a health service, providing an ongoing curatorial service that can refresh and rotate the exhibitions to keep them interesting.

Key to the success of the program is the use of high quality, original Australian art works. No faded old reproductions of bucolic landscapes here. Brad Hammond believes original works “humanise” the environment.

“The communication between the artist and the staff or patient becomes a real exchange,” he says.

The Orange Arts and Health strategy benefits artists as much as staff and patients. An artwork from the Orange Regional Gallery’s permanent collection could normally expect to be viewed by around 4,000 people a year, but by being exhibited in the Orange Health Service, up to 250,000 people a year could be exposed to the work.

“Regional galleries have many works locked away in dark climate controlled storage facilities – this program gets them out into the public domain,” Brad says.

Health care and arts representatives from around Australia and overseas have visited Orange to study the model, looking to start similar programs or to develop aspects of existing initiatives.

“There is a growing global interest in Arts and Health and people from all over the world are sharing ideas,” Brad says. “It’s good to know that the Central West of New South Wales is highly regarded in this field.

Orange Heath Service Art and Health Strategy Projects;

  • Terrazzo designs installed in various Mental Health courtyards
  • Weaving Wellbeing project installed in the Hospital cafeteria courtyard
  • Orange Regional Gallery at Orange Health Service – artworks from the permanent collection exhibited throughout the facility
  • Aboriginal Gathering Space including 11 totemic terrazzo paving artworks near the east entrance of the General Hospital
  • Cubism Project featuring designs by four regional artists, located at the west and east entrances of the General Hospital
  • Historical cabinet displays at the General Hospital east entrance
  • Mental Health environments enhanced using large-scale photographic installations of Central West landscapes
  • Music performances and events
  • Mural by local children’s book illustrator in the Children’s Ward
  • Local artist exhibitions in the cafeteria and staff exhibitions
  • Artist in Residence program incorporating workshops for staff, patients and residents
  • Art appreciation tours for staff and general public

Orange Arts and Health website

Arts and Health Australia website and conference

Tim Winton Artist in Residence video

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