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  • Writer's picturePauliina Lapio

Participatory Art program published at Hospital Nova Finland

Participatory art and its various possibilities are an untapped resource at the hospital level in Finland, the effects of which promote the well-being of patients and staff in many different ways.

Hospital Nova in Jyväskylä has drawn up Finland's first plan for participatory art, the aim of which is to anticipate and systematically target the utilization of various art-based methods to the needs of patients and staff.

Nova Hospital has invested heavily in art and the comfort of its facilities through a diverse art program. Who had done that beautiful work in the inner lobby, what was the story behind the billboard in the booth? How can patients and professionals become better acquainted with hospital art and its various methods? And how could the welfare effects of art be even better utilized in Nova? Answers to this come from the Inclusive Arts Program. (Site in Finnish)

Hospital Nova has a garden of silence designed and carved by Nora Tapper, which inspires visitors to stop and perhaps in the future, through the art of participatory art, the work will get additional shades through the art. Photo: Teija Isohauta.

What is participatory art?

By participatory art, in this context we mean art in which the patient, staff, relative or hospital collaborative networks are involved in the process of making the art: preparation, planning, implementation or final work. Involvement can be the making of the art itself, being involved in the implementation of the work (work of art, workshop, performance, project or process) or influencing the design of the work, for example at an early stage. Participatory activities can be the use of art-based methods as part of nursing. Art can be included, for example, in a general problem faced by staff, such as talking difficult situations with a patient, challenging patients, or, at its simplest, a frightening or exciting action. The art form can be anything; Fine arts, literature, word art, dance, music, theater, circus, environmental art, game art, photography and so on.

In a participatory approach, a staff representative can help create an art project in their own department, for example by arranging space and time to do things, encouraging patients to participate, telling relatives about the art corridor around the corner to wait, encouraging co-workers to join in Why not even organize a guided art moment for co-workers in honor of the return from vacation. In one hospital, staff organized a photo exhibition of their own business trips to the staff service corridor. Each picture contained a story of what is seen on the trip, and the moods of returning home and commuting. Enthusiastic about this, e.g. the rehabilitation unit in Jyväskylä organized a photo exhibition in 2018. The idea does not have to be too difficult or challenging, but even a small thing is enough.

An artist residency combining performing arts and visual arts in the psychiatric unit 2019. Young patients and staff got to know the secrets of print art and experimental electronics in the spirit of art workshops. The Pascal creature was born from space. Photo by Dawn Prescott.

Why participatory art in the hospital?

Art has been studied to have many welfare effects. Participatory art was selected for inclusion in Hospital Nova with reference to these research findings. There was also a strong idea that staff, patients and local networks (relatives, friends, family and other stakeholders) can support the patient on the care path and in healing, also using the means of art. An important component was the staff's resilience, comfort, and impact on the patient's experience of the hospital. Wondered how staff could bring their own skills and insights into participatory activities? In addition, the inclusion of participatory arts was much decided by international hospitals, such as Manchester Hospital with its staggering projects where the pediatric ward was a spaceship or the burn ward patients were allowed to move ceiling artwork during treatment,

However, the cultural dimensions of health and well-being and cultural well-being may be left out in the environments of health service organizations with a focus on medical care and operational efficiency. The International Lancet Commission has identified the neglect of culture in health care as one of the biggest barriers to health promotion (Napier et al. 2014).

The importance of art and culture is revealed especially when a person is isolated in an environment where culture and art are not present. Especially for long-term patients, the experience of the care environment is like this. The healing effect of culture and the arts, like other therapies, can be measured in terms of effectiveness; impressive results have been obtained, for example, from the effect of music on rehabilitation (Särkämö et al. 2011)

More about the benefits of hospital art can be found in the ArtsEqual project policy brief, where I got to be involved as an expert. It was published in the fall of 2020. Here, too, is a link at the end of the article. (Koivisto, T.-A., Lehikoinen, K., Lilja-Viherlampi, L.-M., Lapio, P. & Salanterä, S. 2020. Art and culture in hospitals and health services. ArtsEqual Policy Brief 1/2020. University of the Arts Helsinki .)

Lapio myself (left) getting acquainted with the residency artist activities of Manchester Hospital, which was copied from us in Finland. We did zoetropes with a staff member and the end result surprised both of us. Photo by Dawn Prescott 2019.

The role of the artist in participatory art activities

It is not appropriate to forget the importance of art professionals in carrying out a successful art project. Of course, a lot can be done all by yourself, and it is about creativity and a good sense of doing. The role of the artist is to be involved in the process of participatory art, above all as a pilot, inventor, sparrer, encourager and bringer of expertise to the content itself. The staff can come up with whatever and the art professional grabs the ideas into practice and does concrete things to get the idea to the finish. The role of the artist may be to first gather ideas and then work alone, for example, to prepare a work, but the most meaningful part of participatory art projects for all is that patients and staff also get to do concrete things and see things in a different light.

Often when an artist comes to the scene, it is thought that he is now allowed to do his work in peace and I don’t understand or know anything about this. But when a skilled professional leads the way, something completely surprising and new can emerge for everyone. In one situation, an elderly man told the residency artist that I wouldn’t do art until the cows fly! And guess which work was born? Well a flying cow! And so a reluctant man was involved in the project, laughing.

There are many applied art professionals in Finland who are used to working in different operating environments. Fortunately, the hospital world is also opening its doors to these long-line actors who are no strangers to new perspectives, ways of doing things, target groups, or places to do their art. All the credit, therefore, both to healthcare professionals whose main job is to get patients healthy and to art professionals who are happy in this work to support staff and inspire new ways of doing things.

The lower lobby of the hospital in Jyväskylä turned into an art workshop one day, where any passer-by could take part in the making. Here is a staff child doing blockprinting directed by an artist in 2019. Photo by Pauliina Lapio.

My starting points for making a plan for participatory art

A little story about why I was chosen as the author of the first participatory art plan or why the subject interested me so much. First, I was on a job exchange at Pavilion Dance South West in 2013. My job was to study the effects of dance on health, aging, and well-being. I was the executive director of the Central Finland Dance Center and has just run several wellness projects on dance in nursing homes. I wonder if there is a scientific basis for the welfare effects of art, and dance art in particular. Well, there were them!

I mapped out all the welfare projects done in the South-West area in recent years and hit quite a few hospital projects. I stated that we do not have this in Finland. I read about how art projects had been drawn for cancer patients with them. How the big black tick on the door of the radiotherapy room was replaced with a nature photo. Soothing elements instead of intimidation. Relatives were given measurements of blood pressure while waiting for their relatives for chemotherapy. It was pretty high readings. The same was repeated with the art of dance present. Blood pressure dropped significantly. Oh, that relatives were also thought of? My interest aroused. I came to Finland and thought that it would not be possible for us in Finland. Especially the home hospital in Jyväskylä! And no matter what happened ...

In 2017, at one of the meetings of the Hospital Nova Art Working Group, I received an ex-tempore two-minute speech on the possibilities of performing arts at the hospital. I was involved as an expert in art and well-being. I quoted all the international and domestic examples that I suddenly remembered. It was worth it! At the end of the speech, I remember the words of one developer chief: Are we not going to get involved?

Congratulations to the new Hospital Nova and Finland's first plan for participatory art!

A little bit staff gone nuts in the end of art workshop January 2020.

Some research and scientific evidence about art as part of hospital work.

ArtsEqual policy brief: Culture and the Arts in Hospitals and Other Health Service Organisations

Medical clowning:

Mäenpää, K. (2018): Digital service for measuring children’s patient experience of preoperative medical clowning. Lasten potilaskokemuksen mittaaminen digitaalisen palvelun avulla – tapaustutkimus toimenpideklovnerian vaikuttavuudesta potilaskokemukseen. Aalto University, School of Science. Degree Programme in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences.

•Daykin, N., Byrne, E., Soteriou, T. & O’Connor, S. (2008). The impact of art, design and environment in mental healthcare: a systematic review of the literature. The Journal of The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. Vol. 128, No.2, s. 85-94.

•Wilson, C., Bungay, H., Munn-Giddins, C. & Boyce, M. (2016). Healthcare professionals’ perceptions of the value and impact of the arts in healthcare settings: A critical review of literature. International Journal of Nursing Studies 56, s. 90–101.

•Campbell, E. A. (2019). Vibroacoustic treatment and self-care for managing the chronic pain experience: An operational model. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä.

•Dowler, L. (2016) Can improvised somatic dance reduce acute pain for young people in hospital? Nursing Children & Young People, Vol. 28, No. 9, s. 20-25.

More (mostly in Finnish) at Taikusydän:

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