In its broadest sense, arts and health refers to the practice of applying arts initiatives to health problems and health promoting settings. It involves all art forms and may be focused at any point in the health care continuum. It also has an impact on the determinants of ill-health by changing individuals’ attitudes to health risks and supporting community resilience…

There is clear empirical evidence that arts and health activity is a health-promoting endeavour for all members of society.
— National Arts and Health Framework

It’s not everyday that you see patients and families in a palliative care ward covered in confetti, yet this was common in the palliative care ward of Liverpool Hospital these past few months.

The big goal of the Reflected Legacy project was to bring comfort, support and creativity to Liverpool Palliative Care Ward. We wanted to transform the grey hospital ward with colour and conversation while capturing the life stories of people dying as beautiful visual artworks.

The Reflected Legacy project has really exceeded our expectations in many ways; spirits were raised, tears and laughter, loss and resilience were all brought to life as families shared stories in the most profound and intimate ways. This book aims to capture as best we can the essence of this process and experience, as hard as it is to put into words or images the impact of it all. What we can say without a doubt is that this experience has reinforced our commitment to making creativity a part of end of life conversations.

The GroundSwell Project exists to create profound experiences that enable social and cultural change around death and dying in Australia. Over the past 5 years we have collaborated with over 30 artists and arts organisations to deliver unique experiences and events across Australia including a national film festival about organ donation, interdisciplinary conferences on death literacy, filmmaking projects in cemeteries and sculpture projects with women following breast cancer. Using an Arts and Health Framework we bring together the creativity of the arts with the best evidence from health and deliver creative solutions for both sharing health information and engaging people in what can be difficult topics.

When artist Robyn Wilson, who specialises in the Ink-Pressing art-form that combines art-making with conversation contacted us there was so much synergy and energy we immediately applied for a Creative Partnerships Australia Match grant to pilot this interactive experience in the palliative care.

We are thankful to the Palliative care team at Liverpool Hospital for taking on this unique project. Under the leadership of Dr Jennifer Wiltshire and with support from NUM Sonya Green The GroundSwell Project was engaged to develop an Arts and Health program to promote wellbeing, resilience and healing for people who are dying, their families and staff on the ward. This collaboration provided the foundation for the subsequent MATCH grant and the Pozible crowdfunding campaign. Creative Partnerships Australia were incredibly encouraging and supportive during the campaign, as were the Liverpool Hospital Executive and the all the staff and volunteers in palliative care.

A huge thanks to our Pozible supporters too. It is with a deep sense of pride that I have read your comments of support and we have all felt your encouragement (from near and far) as we delivered the project. I hope you are all proud that you helped make this project a reality.

Finally, I’d like to say a few words about Robyn Wilson the artist who is Flutter Lyon. Each time Flutter walked into the ward something palpable changed. The yellow jacket. The silver shoes. The trolley covered in ink and confetti. These things all signalled that something a little different was about to happen! It is quite something, a great privilege, to see an artist in action as they hold a space that enables profound conversations at a time when people can be incredibly vulnerable. Flutter Lyon is a woman of great talent, exquisite sensitivity and emotional intelligence and it was an absolute delight to work with her over the past 3 months. We look forward to doing this again – many times over.

There is now a compelling body of evidence outlining the benefits of Arts and Health. The development of a National Framework and recently the new NSW Health Arts Taskforce are heralding a new era of practice and recognition for the arts and health. As part of our commitment to demonstrating impact, we have developed a comprehensive evaluation of the project that includes patients, staff, partner organisations and our crowdfunding supporters.

The word clouds you see below are part of the evaluation, representing patients self-reported emotional state before and after the Pressing Sessions. The size of each word represents the frequency that they were recorded as responses from patients.

 While simple, we think they speak powerfully.

- Kerrie Noonan

Evaluation question to patient:

How did you feel BEFORE your Pressing Session experience?

 

Evaluation question to patient:

How did you feel AFTER your Pressing Session experience?