Vital Arts announces plans to enhance patient environments in 2020

Several arts in health projects underway across Barts Health NHS Trust estate

Rhys Coren's 'doodle' design for Barts Health Orthopaedic Centre is one of a number of projects planned by Vital Arts in 2020

2020 is set to be a busy year for Vital Arts, the charitably-funded arts and health service within Barts Health NHS Trust.

The new decade will herald a number of new initiatives set to transform patient, staff and visitor spaces, as well as contribute directly to wellbeing and recovery.

To start the year, Rhys Coren will bring his ‘whimsical sense of humour’ to the Barts Health Orthopaedic Centre at Newham Hospital.

The artist’s first public commission will involve relining the new facility with a doodle-inspired wall covering.

The floor-to-ceiling design will be overlaid with quirky works on paper.

The immersive installation will greet patients arriving for elective orthopaedic surgery and accompany them as they move from reception, waiting areas, routes to theatre and recovery.

The project plays with the cliché of the picture frame - an object that is often used as a generic symbol for ‘art’ - as his commission incorporates the various bulletin boards, notices and other signage that are prevalent in a clinical setting.

Even the flat screen within the waiting area will serve as a picture frame, with the usual health messaging on the TV-style monitor punctuated by a series of animations by Coren, transforming the digital display into a temporary ‘picture’ that visually and conceptually connects to the surrounding artwork.

Whipps Cross Hospital is also getting a facelift, with the installation of artist in residence, Lilah Fowler’s Magic Lantern project.

As part of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019, and funded by Waltham Forest Council, she has created an innovative installation along the main public corridor of the building.

“The listed Edwardian building has a striking design, featuring symmetrical towers and a corridor that spans nearly a quarter of a mile – one of the longest in the UK still in use today,” explains Vital Arts director, Catsou Roberts.

'Magic lantern' slides by Lilah Fowler will be displayed at Whipps Cross Hospital

“The hospital is firmly embedded in the community, and when developing her installation, Fowler considered the legacy of this area and took inspiration from the ‘magic lantern’ slides she discovered in the Epping Forest and Vestry Museum archives.”

Entitled Lantern Forest, the artwork includes drawn and photographic images of flora and fauna found locally.

Working on glazed sections of the corridor, Fowler has used the transparency of the square window panes to recreate a sense of the 19th-century tradition of images on glass used in early photography.

The work encourages viewers to look up and out through the windows, making a possible connection with the restorative forest that lays on the edge of the hospital’s premises.

And, at the Ambrose King Sexual Health Centre at the Royal London Hospital, design duo, Nicole and Petra Kaptiza are putting the finishing touches to an installation which runs through two floors of the newly-refurbished Edwardian building.

Design duo, Kapitza, install their commission for the Ambrose King Sexual Health Centre

This is the first commission within a healthcare setting by the east London-based duo and Vital Arts hopes to extend the installation to include animated works appearing on the digital messaging screens within waiting rooms.

Other projects underway recently completed include artworks by Lauren Keeley for quiet rooms at Barts and the Royal London hospitals featuring screen-printed wooden reliefs; and the hosting at Whipps Cross Hospital of the celebrated Sam Taylor-Johnson film of footballer, David Beckham sleeping, which is on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Images of David Beckham sleeping are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery to Whipps Cross Hospital

And, in another first, the arts group is collaborating with Studio Wayne McGregor on its first engagement project within a hospital setting.

The ongoing series of dance workshops for older patients at the Royal London Hospital has been led by the company’s Dance Animateur, Lily Dettmer.

Through chair-based exercises and creative tasks, patients have been able to improve mobility, co-ordination and strength.

Each session has been bespoke to the needs of participants and has boosted both confidence and mood.

Bollywood dancing is helping to rehabilitate elderly patients at Newham Hospital

In addition, reflecting the multi-cultural nature of the community, Newham Hospital is running its Dance Well Bollywood dance programme where artists delivery participatory sessions for older people within bed bays and at patients’ bedsides.

The sessions are a useful rehabilitation tool, complementing the work of the therapies team in preparing the patient for discharge from hospital.

'Magic lantern' slides by Lilah Fowler will be displayed at Whipps Cross Hospital