An exhibition of original artwork by NHS staff in Cumbria will open today, accompanied by a piece by world famous artist Damien Hirst.
The free exhibition will be at the Florence Arts Centre, Egremont until October 30.
Throughout the pandemic the image of people working for the NHS as lifesavers became even more apparent. Every day they entered our world via the media.
What we did not see as clearly was how NHS staff from across clinical and non-clinical services were using art to express themselves during this exceptionally difficult time. But now you can.
Paul Counter is an ear nose and throat consultant at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust, he is also chair of the healing Arts programme at the trust.
He said: “This pandemic has been a testing time for us all. Everyone’s world changed overnight and throughout it all the NHS has been there and we had the same worries about the virus as everyone else.
“As a trust our staff wellbeing is very important. We actively encouraged colleagues to use art as one of the ways to support wellbeing and we had a campaign to help encourage more people to see the value in art to help good mental wellbeing.”
Susie Tate, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust, healing arts lead said: “Back in September 2020, the trust invited colleagues to pick up their pens, pencils, paintbrush or camera and ‘Be The Artist’. The response was incredible and the quality of work stunning.
“The result was the first NCIC online gallery. Jenni Payne, of Florence Arts Centre in Egremont, discovered our gallery and asked to showcase some of the work in a special exhibition. We were thrilled!”
Julie Haigh, a digital midwife at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust is having her work exhibited.
She said: “I discovered the joys of paddle boarding 3 years ago and was able to continue throughout the pandemic; I sent some photographs to the Be the Artist campaign of some of the beautiful lakes I was visiting and even got some toy figures to recreate my paddle boarding scenes!
“Taking the photos helped me remember the joy I felt while being on the lake and I hope that sharing them gave others some joy too.
“I am currently going through treatment for cancer and while paddle boarding itself is sometimes a little too much sometimes, the photography still helps me. Looking back at the photos gives me the determination to get better and get back on the paddleboard!”
Susie wants the exhibition to inspire others.
She said: “Art as a way to alleviate stress is not new. Even before COVID the evidence on taking part in arts activity to support the wellbeing of NHS staff has been well researched. Some of our staff are extremely talented and when we launched ‘Be the Artist’ we were stunned at the quality, to be able to showcase it in this way is fabulous. I hope that it encourages more people – not just NHS staff- to use art to support their wellbeing.”
At the height of the coronavirus crisis, UK artist Damien Hirst created a new rainbow artwork to show support for the NHS.
The work, Butterfly Rainbow, is made up of bands of coloured butterfly wings, one of the artist’s best‐known motifs.
NCIC Healing Arts was gifted one of the limited editions of this artwork offered to the NHS and it is being unveiled to the public for the first time at Florence Arts Centre to sit alongside the Be the Artist exhibition.
Florence Arts Centre director, Anne Waggot Knott, said: “We are absolutely delighted to showcase the work of NHS creatives alongside that of world-famous artist, Damien Hirst. Being creative is so good for our mental wellbeing and we hope this friendly, accessible exhibition inspires more people to dip a toe into the arts.”
Susie added: “It is such a privilege to be able to work with the NHS and with community arts venues in this way. ‘Be the Artist’ online will now be embedded into the NCIC Healing Arts programme as an annual event for staff to contribute to and for galleries in Cumbria to exhibit.”
The exhibition is at Florence Arts Centre is open between Wednesday and Sunday, from 11am to 4pm, with free entry.