‘Thank you so much for the wonderful art that adorns the walls of the hospital’
Gilly Angell, House of Lords All Party Working Group on Arts Health and Wellbeing.
Art has always played an important part in the history of Homerton Hospital, right from its original opening in July 1986. It is now established as an outstanding international role model, used clinically to help patients recover from illness, and to improve the environment experience for patients, staff, and visitors to the Trust.
During the 1980’s and 90’s the Trust had an expert-led Art Works Committee steered by the eminent surgeon, Mr William Shand and later, by Dr Dan Tunstall Pedoe, consultant cardiologist and amateur photographer. Many of the art works you see today in the hospital’s art collection, such as Paula Haughney’s ensemble of limestone sculptures, ‘Our Envrionment’ (courtyard opposite the Department of Metabolic Medicine) and Kevin Harrison’s, zany WAWASHSH sculpture (T Junction) are early examples of this public art commissioning and were funded in part by the Public Art Development Trust.
Over the years, the hospital’s art displays have incorporated affordable loans from Paintings in Hospitals and have expanded significantly due to the generosity of donations and gifts through a scheme set up by the Art Curator, in which famous artists and galleries – such as White Cube - have gifted over £100,000 of art works to the Trust. Now you can find a rare 1949 colour lithograph by Henry Moore OM entitled, ‘Sculptural Objects’ in the main entrance reception area, you can also see two hand coloured etchings by the prolific Victorian caricaturist, George Cruikshank, dated 1835, outside the Cardiology Department, and joyous works by Joan Miro, Albert Irvin RA OBE, and Fred Pollock, to name but a few. There is also a display of vintage Polaroid photographs 1950-75 on loan to the X Ray Department and a group of 1970’s colour lithographs by the world famous American artist, Alexander Calder (1898-1976).
During its tenure the Art Works Committee also went on to install major art works donated to the Trust by The Royal Bank of Scotland. Robert Adams dramatic abstract wall hanging sculpture ‘ Folding Movement’ can be seen on the main forecourt side wall, and Kate Malone’s ceramic fountain, ‘Jug and Bowl’ fountain is located in one of the hospital’s rear courtyards. There have also been 54 exhibitions held in the Education Centre, and art is showcased to great effect in almost every department, division, and area of the hospital, selected in tandem with staff and users. The Trust has enjoyed some hugely successful partnership collaborations involving world class organisations such as the Museum of London, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Museum of Childhood, The British Library, The National Trust Sutton House, Hackney Museum, The Museum of Migration, and Tate Britain.
However, Homerton doesn’t just display art works by known artists; it also frequently presents original art works created by long stay patients in the Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit, made by those who use art as part of their on-going healthcare programme, as a tool in communication, and evidence of quality engagement time and empowerment. Patients are clinically referred to art workshop sessions twice a week, and the project continues to be a thriving example of innovation and creativity, which has attracted positive publicity to the hospital, most notably in an article featured in the Observer (September 2010) and in a BBC World television programme, ‘Health Check’. The benefits of providing an art workshop service for long stay patients are that it reduces boredom which can lead to depression, provides patients with a meaningful activity that is stimulating, and affords a sense of achievement, thus improving mood and general wellbeing. This service subsequently branched out in 2016 and now operates on the Elderly Care Unit and Graham Stroke Unit, once a week. The funding for these art workshops is covered by the Art Charity which is managed by Homerton Hope. Since 2015 the charity has raised over £90,000 in donations and gifts – coming from the sale at Christies, of 4 signed lithographs of the ‘Sleeping Baby’ made by popular street artist and Hackney resident Stik, who also painted a large mural for one of the hospital’s main courtyards.
‘Shaun Caton’s art workshop is a key part of the RNRU and its advanced, holistic rehabilitation programme, provided for people whose independence has been severely limited by long term injury and disease’ Dr Richard Greenwood, Consultant Neurologist, Homerton Hospital.
Hackney and the East End of London has an estimated population of over 12,000 artists and many contact the Trust each year, with a view to donating a painting, print, or photograph. The art works are all carefully evaluated by the newly formed, Art Steering Group chaired by the Trust’s Chairman, Tim Melville Ross.
‘I attach so much importance to the artwork in the Trust, both its creation and display, because of the profound effect the art displayed in the hospital and our community locations has on the environment, and the wellbeing of all who come to the Trust, patients, staff and visitors. Creating new art can also have a profoundly beneficial effect on many of our patients ’ Tim Melville Ross, Chairman, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Each art work is considered for its artistic merit, originality, and authenticity, before becoming accepted as part of the Trust’s collection. The Trust has also celebrated the talents and creative interests of its own staff in multiple amateur photography exhibitions and screened a DVD of the Viewfinder Photography Gallery’s (based in London) top 100 photographs in the Main Reception for a period of one month.
There is virtually nothing the Homerton won’t try to incorporate into its arts project: sound installation art, conceptual art works, children’s art, cartoons, experimental photography, community outreach art projects, photo-historical displays etc... Working in partnership with world-class museums, the Trust also displays issue based art as art of its programme. We have previously hosted exhibitions that chronicle and survey the Afro-Caribbean diaspora (gifted by the Museum of London) an LGBT history panel display (created in association with the London Metropolitan Archive and Bishopsgate Institute), and numerous other exhibitions that promote the cultures and ethnicities of our wider community and reflect our values. Art is an important factor in the culture of our hospital and that’s why we pride ourselves on being one of the pioneers in the field of art, healthcare and excellence.