Belfast Children's Hospital Art Gallery a UK First

Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children Hosts Permanent Gallery

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Jenni Barkley, Belfast Harbour Communications and Corporate Responsibility Manager and Abby McConville (13) from Silverbridge who contributed to the exhibition.

The UK’s first dedicated regional children and young people’s art gallery to be located in a hospital has opened at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Developed by Arts Care, Northern Ireland’s leading Arts in Health charity, the contemporary gallery will showcase art works produced by sick and vulnerable children and young people from across Northern Ireland.

The permanent exhibition space, designed to professional gallery standards, is part of an ongoing initiative to give children and young people a ‘creative voice’.  Children will produce art with the help of Arts Care’s professional artist team and the aim is to reduce anxiety caused by their illnesses and healthcare treatment.

The gallery, known as ‘Cartwheel 999’, is funded by Belfast Harbour, Arts & Business NI and Children in Need, with the support of Northern Ireland’s five Health & Social Care Trusts and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  Located near the hospital’s new MRI scanner the gallery will be viewed by thousands of people every year.

Arts Care’s CEO and Artistic Director, Dr. Jenny Elliott, said:

“This is a landmark development for the arts in health. Every year thousands of children and young people in Northern Ireland live with huge challenges such as serious or life limiting illnesses or poor mental health.  For the past 25 years Arts Care has worked closely with healthcare professionals and professional artists, using the arts to help children and their families cope with profoundly difficult circumstances. Arts projects have a track record of delivering tangible, clinical benefits - helping give children a voice and unlocking their creativity at a time when they can feel anxious and vulnerable.  The bespoke gallery will be an innovative arts opportunity for local children and young people, and we hope that it will become one of the UK and Ireland’s most significant arts venues. Named ‘Cartwheel 999’ after Arts Care’s new children’s strategy, the new gallery will be a focal point for arts in health projects from across Northern Ireland.”

The theme of the first art exhibition is the Belfast Harbour’s skyline. The art work was created by children who took part in Arts Care workshops in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Musgrave Park Hospital and Forest Lodge Respite Unit.

One of the exhibitors, Abby McConville (age 13) from Silverbridge, Co. Armagh said:

“Art helps take your mind off the scary things that happen in hospital and l really enjoyed taking part in the exhibition. I liked doing messy art and also being very precise with fine markers.”

Jenni Barkley, Belfast Harbour’s Communications and Corporate Responsibility Manager, added:

“Annually, Arts Care projects touch the lives of 200,000 people involved in healthcare through a range of programmes, exhibitions and festivals for young and old alike, helping encourage and inspire those who need it most.  Belfast Harbour is delighted to be part of such invaluable work and to see how the children have interpreted day-to-day life at the Harbour.”

Mary Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI, added:

“Arts & Business NI is delighted to support this wonderful initiative. The relationship between Belfast Harbour and Arts Care is a shining example of a true partnership and showcases that many private sector businesses partner with and invest in the Arts because they see that the Arts are deeply rooted within communities and positively impact on people’s lives. This valuable business investment is also extending and strengthening this important work.”

Since it was founded in 1991 Arts Care has worked with hundreds of thousands of people.  Initiatives include the ‘Clown Doctors’, who have been bringing laughter to wards for ten years, dance workshops and artists in residence in each Health & Social Care Trust.  Art forms used include painting, sculpture, creative writing, drama, music and film-making. The charity also trains healthcare professionals to use the arts more effectively in care homes and hospitals.

Dr Michael Mc Bride Chief Executive of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said:

“I am honoured to be here today.  This art gallery represents an expressive opportunity for our younger patients to share their feelings and emotions, it gives them a visual voice and has untold creative and therapeutic benefits. I wish to thank the Arts Care team and all the staff at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children for making this possible.  Additional praise must go to the organisations whose generous funding brought this concept to life. This art project is an excellent example of partnership opportunities between health organisations, the community and other stakeholder organisations.”

Speaking at the event Bob Collins, Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“The new Arts Care children’s art gallery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children is a living example of how arts and creativity can contribute to our children’s health and wellbeing. It shows the importance of opening up opportunities for everyone to experience the arts; indeed more than half of the work that the Arts Council currently invests in takes place in hospitals, schools and community groups. Arts Care are pioneers in the field of arts and health and we are delighted to be able to support them in the development of this wonderful new gallery that will bring so much fulfilment to the lives of these children and young people.”

As part of its 25th anniversary celebrations Arts Care is launching a new fundraising campaign as part of its ‘Cartwheel 999’ strategy.  The charity hopes to raise almost £100,000 by asking 99 businesses to donate £999 each.