ARTISTS and makers are playing a key role in healthcare in two innovative hospital projects in Scotland.

Initiatives include sculptures designed to encourage therapeutic use of the grounds surrounding the new East Lothian Community Hospital and creative workshops for mental health outpatients and people living with dementia.

Artists were also commissioned to support the mental well-being of staff and patients at the redesigned world-leading haematology centre at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

In total over 30 art and contemporary craft commissions have been created as a result of the project which was funded and managed by NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts programme, curated by Round Table Projects, with funded support from Craft Scotland and Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity.

Central to the East Lothian hospital programme is an installation by award-winning design practice NEON. Mark Nixon and Viliina Koivisto worked with nearly 90 local school children to record the sensation of spending time outdoors in the stunning inland and coastal landscapes of East Lothian.

The National: NEON is is an award-winning design practiceNEON is is an award-winning design practice (Image: Mark Nixon and Viliina Koivisto)

The result is inspired by the meditative experience of forest bathing – spending time beneath a protective canopy of foliage. The large suspended structure is comprised of hundreds of white discs, clustered like leaves to create a contemplative focal point for people waiting for their hospital appointments.

As well as permanent commissions, craft-making has played a key role in supporting patient well-being. Supported by Craft Scotland, artist and jeweller Fiona Hermse provided creative workshops for mental health outpatients and people living with dementia in the inpatient ward at the East Lothian Community Hospital (ELCH).

“The main priority for the workshops was to provide a valuable creative and social experience with high-quality materials for mental health outpatients and inpatients throughout their transition to the new hospital site,” said Hermse. “The workshops were intended to calm and soothe the patients as well as provide mental stimulation.”

Irene Kernan, Craft Scotland director, added: “The lasting effect of Fiona Hermse’s work is a credit to the commitment and care provided at the workshops working with patients in East Lothian. The feedback from staff and participants at East Lothian Community Hospital illustrate craft’s potential to play a key role in healthcare supporting treatment and recovery.”

Outside the hospital, within the grounds of ELCH, artist Alex Allan was commissioned with physical rehabilitation specifically in mind. He created a series of colourful structures to encourage movement and therapeutic use of the outdoor space.

“These participatory works show that art can have a really practical role to play in rehabilitating people mentally and physically,” said Arabella Harvey, of Round Table Projects. “I think Alex’s project is probably quite unique in an arts and health context in providing physical objects to interact with and support recovery.”

Harvey also managed the arts strategy for the redesigned Edinburgh Haematology Centre, aimed at using uplifting and absorbing works of art to create spaces for respite.

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The commissioned artists and makers were briefed to draw on the landscape, ecology and cultural heritage of the Firth of Forth and surrounding areas, and the final results include visually striking pieces mounted and placed in locations around the hospital in a bid to improve the mental and emotional wellbeing of staff as well as people experiencing illness.

Ceramic artists Frances Priest, Lorna Fraser and Lorraine Robson are among eight practitioners who created works that centre on motifs ranging from flowering plants and mussel shells to a Victorian archive of pattern books.