Art, News I 29.06.16 I by

Can art help soothe mental health problems? Assemble and Gavin Turk think so…

Art can be food for the soul but it’s also proving useful in the treatment of patients with mental heath issues.

The Hospital Rooms project, co-founded by curator Niamh White, has brought 10 artists together with the aim of rejuvenating the Phoenix Unit, a psychiatric ward at Springfield University Hospital in London’s Tooting.

Among them are Turner Prize winners Assemble, Gavin Turk and Nick Knight who have worked with the 18 residents at Phoenix Unit to brighten up the previously drab setting with art installations.

‘We wanted to create a domestic, stimulating, interesting and beautiful series of spaces,’ says White. ‘It was important to us that each space became unique – each room already had a named function such as the Quiet Room and the Games Room, but we wanted to differentiate them visually in a significant way.’

Artist Tim A Shaw, also co-founder of Hospital Rooms, conceived interiors for the Phoenix Unit’s dining room, which now doubles as a gallery showcasing works created by residents during workshop sessions.

Courtyard, by Joh Bates Courtesy of Hospital Rooms. Photography: Toni Hollowood
Courtyard, by Joh Bates
Courtesy of Hospital Rooms. Photography: Toni Hollowood

Outside, landscape architect Joh Bates revamped the courtyard, inserting a pergola filled with greenery that residents help to maintain. The whole initiative has been funded by Arts Council England and Morris Markowe League of Friends of Springfield Hospital.

Feedback from residents, nurses and psychiatrists at the facility has so far been positive.

‘I think the new design is changing the way we all live our lives on the ward,’ says Will, one of the service users. ‘The art has given us all a new way to start conversations with each other and things already seem so much better.’

Now, the arts group and the hospital will work to quantify some of the benefits of the scheme.

The secure mental ward is closed off to the public but an exhibition of photos and works from the Hospital Rooms project kicks off tomorrow at the Griffin Gallery in west London. A version of Phoenix Unit’s dining room gallery will also be on show.

Tomo is a London-based writer covering design and architecture. He contributes to The Spaces.

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