Sabina Higgins, wife of the President Michael D. Higgins, has this week launched the new Saolta Arts programme at UHG.
Saolta Arts is the new name for the Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust which provided arts events and activities for patients and staff at UHG and Merlin Park Hospital.
The arts programme has now been extended to include the other hospitals in the Saolta Group – Roscommon, Portiuncula, Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny University Hospitals.
The Arts and Health programme provides a multi-disciplinary programme of events and activities, including exhibitions, participative workshops, music, theatre and poetry making across the hospitals.
Speaking at the launch Mrs Higgins said, “The theme of place, its identity, and the sense of belonging and rootedness with which it provides us is something that the President and I return to frequently at events and in our addresses.
“It is one of the most fundamental human needs, and something with which we Irish have a deep resonance for a variety of reasons, including cultural and historical.”
Margaret Flannery Saolta Arts Director said that the programme is being facilitated by professional artists who tailor workshops to the individual needs and interests of patients while drawing from their own arts practices.
In the Care for the Elderly and Rehabilitation strains, this promotes getting older people and those in poor physical condition to find areas where they can still flourish.
“The creative process promotes independence otherwise limited by ill health and the creative achievements of participants can help them to re-evaluate their abilities in the face of change,” Margaret Flannery said.
“In Paediatrics, our workshops nurture the imagination of young patients and their siblings to allay fears and make positive memories of their time in hospital.”
Also launched on the same day was a new exhibition from the Offset, an intergenerational print project orientated around experiments with printmaking practices of sharing and creating a sense of belonging and place.
It is inspired by the principal of mutual benefit and exchange of tacit knowledge between generations and explores how we share experiences from a distance.
Margaret Flannery said that Offset began when printmaker Aoife Barrett visited the Connemara studio of renowned Aosdána artist, Margaret Irwin West.
“Both highly skilled artists with a passion for sharing printmaking with others, this was an opportunity for the artists to exchange their skills and experiences.”
One of the core parts of the project is a programme for young kids who spend significant amounts of time waiting in hospital to make postcards.
“Dispatched through the post rooms of Galway University Hospitals, the handmade postcards were sent between friends and strangers, patients and staff – unexpected greetings and mementos to brighten someone’s day.”
“The Offset exhibition shares a small selection of these cards as a heart-warming reminder of the small gestures that can make the hospital feel a lot more human.”
The exhibition will run until September 15 and is located on the Arts Corridor of University Hospital Galway.
Mrs Higgins described Offset as “a celebration of some of the insights and contributions that both our youngest and oldest generations make to society”.
Saolta first began bringing art to the corridors of UHG and Merlin Park in 2003 with the loan of the Hunt Collection which is made of over 100 works of Modern Irish Art.
“Since then, we ensure that work created as part of the arts programme in both UHG and Merlin Park can be celebrated,” said Chris Kane, General Manager of Galway University Hospitals.
“Our staff have also created artworks for permanent display in public areas and the UHG Arts Corridor is home to a rolling programme of exhibitions.”