As St. Joseph's Hospital is now becoming a HSE Campus there is a move towards a progressive health system which opens up many creative opportunities for public health and healthcare to become more person and community centred. The Contact Studios and Le Chéile model is a collaboration and partnership involving communities and local services working together to create meaningful engagement within the context of mental health and wellbeing. Contact Studios and Le Chéile have a partnership, working together to realise shared goals for almost twenty years. Collectively this partnership has developed and refined a sustainable model. The expertise of the members ensure a coherent integration of Arts and Health programme that has long term impact for the wellbeing of service users as well the wider community. While acknowledging that there are on-going Arts and Health practices, involving artists and health care settings operating locally and nationally since the early 1990's, Contact Studios' partnership is unique in its remit as one of the longest established arts and health initiatives in Ireland.
A selection of hand puppets made by Le Chéile service users in a workshop ran by Contact Studio's member Emma Fisher.
The benefits of Contact Studios engagement are wide reaching. The weekly encounters are reciprocal in nature as the mutual experiences enhance the social, cultural and creative life of all involved. Contact Studios direct contribution to the Le Chéile Project takes the form of classes, participation in social events and publicity. Art Classes at Le Chéile are specifically designed to meet the needs of service users with a focus on creative ways of thinking in a relaxed, consistent and supportive environment. The artists/teachers all have third level qualifications varying from B.A. to PhD, bringing their experience as painters, printmakers, sculptors, ceramicists and textile artists to the organisation. Contact members also participate in creative writing classes, accompany members on outings and attend the Sunday Café event.
Landscape painting by Le Chéile service user.
The partnership between Le Chéile and Contact Studios extends into the community through the promotion of good mental health and of the services available. Contact Studios work with Le Chéile on open days and have facilitated art activities and events during Mental Health Week including Art Therapy Workshops and facilitations making members aware of different therapeutic options. They have also delivered an Art Day within the community, working with families of service users and introducing parents and children to Creative therapies. The studio members also stage the Annual Table Quiz night.
Mind mapping drawing by Le Chéile service user.
Contact Studios makes a point of acknowledging its partnership with Le Chéile in all studio promotional literature, at events in the Studio premises and invites Le Chéile members to attend openings and studio events. The open studio and exhibitions, including Culture Night, bring large numbers of visitors to the St. Joseph's Hospital campus and send out a positive message about the role of art in positive mental health.
A hand puppet made by a Le Chéile service user in a workshop ran by Contact Studio's member Emma Fisher.
The "arts in healthcare" is a wide-ranging international movement that covers the waterfront of possibilities for how the arts enhance lives and impact patient care, hospital environments and community-building within a wide range of settings. Over the last two decades, research on how the arts visual, music, movement, drama, literature and creative writing, enhance health has increased exponentially. Robert Henri writes about the positive experiences that art can bring to everyone, not just professional artists, pointing to the fact that in making art the object ... is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, more than an ordinary moment of existence and that the resulting artworks 'however crude, become dear to the artist who made them because they are records of states of being which he has enjoyed and which he would regain.' (ii)
Personal Notebook/Sketchbook making workshop with Le Chéile service users run by Third Level Visual Arts Educator and Contact Studios Member Anne-Marie Morrin.
Contact Studios members are working within the context of the Healthy Ireland Framework (2013 - 2025), which is a framework for improving health and wellbeing 2013-2025 and the studio members are aware of the needs and wants of the participants they engage with. The Healthy Ireland Framework (2013-2025) states that one in four people will experience mental health issues in their life time. The document also states that mental health is a growing health, social and economic issue and it is expected that depressive mental illness will be the leading cause of chronic diseases in high income countries by 2030.
Contact Studios memeber Kathleen Bartlett facilitating a recreational art class at Le Chéile.
Data points to a number of promising trends demonstrating that patients’ participation in the arts reduces use of pain medication, increases compliance with treatments, and shortens the length of stay in hospitals among other thought-provoking findings. (ii)
Art on display at Le Chéile.
Many medical schools, for example, provide an arts and humanities programme as part of student’s education. Yale School of medicine, London School of Medicine and locally in the medical programme at the University of Limerick med students now routinely take short courses in arts and humanities and experience visual art, music-making, movement, or creative writing as therapies. At present, one of our members Sheila Richardson (Artist, Educator, and Art Therapist) is pioneering art based therapies within the pediatric unit of University Hospital, Limerick.
Contact Studios memeber Kevin O'Keeffe facilitating a recreational art class at Le Chéile.
The model of integration is particularly relevant as Limerick is at the forefront in addressing the area of Arts & Mental health through its bid for Limerick 2020 with Limerick aiming to become one of the first Compassionate Cities in Ireland. A Compassionate City is described as:
“A compassionate city is one in which citizens can feel supported in the face of illness and loss – in schools, workplaces, cultural and spiritual forums so that the personal and social costs of these issues – such as loneliness, depression, anxiety and physical illness can be reduced."
Contact Studios support positive mental health through art.
In this national initiative as well as Arts Council’s Arts and Health Policy (2010) and the new strategy Making Great Art Work, Leading the Development of the Arts in Ireland (2016 – 2025) emphasis is placed on the role of the arts in the promotion of wellbeing and healthcare. Research within and across the arts has been widely acknowledged as pivotal to meaningful engagement across the arts and the health sectors in addition to its relevance for the Creative Europe 2014 - 2020 programme. In establishing more concrete links Contact Studios is strategically placed to engage in progressing the arts and health initiatives and is deepening the engagement between practice, health care and research within the Health Sector.
The members (past and present) are passionately committed to the progression of a HSE agenda both local and national and are very confident that the implementation of a sustainable community outreach arts programme will continue to have significant beneficial implications for the wide community that we engage with.
Contact Studios members past and present. Contact Studios was established in 1997 by members of the Real Art Project (RAP) and the Mid-West Health Board (now H.S.E.).