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3 Day Hospice into Art Gallery — A Tale of Transformation
  1. Judith RM Williams
  1. The Martlets Hospice, Hove, West Sussex

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Throughout May 2007, to mark its 10th anniversary, the Martlets Day Hospice became an art gallery as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. This transformation affected patients, staff, visitors and the local community on many levels. Central to the exhibition was a 6’x6’ canvas in the style of an Aboriginal dot painting, depicting key aspects of the hospice’s work. Over several weeks, everyone who worked at or visited the hospice was invited to ‘make their mark’ on this canvas, creating a vibrant, living piece of art that will continue to be transformed for years to come.

This work helped to unify the many people associated with the hospice, validating their contributions both on the canvas and in their various capacities of volunteer, doctor, visitor, etc. The identity of the organisation became manifest in the work of art.

Having their creativity exhibited in a major arts festival, transformed individuals from being a patient, staff member or volunteer, into being an artist. Many works were aesthetically stunning; others became stunning through the stories and meanings attached to them in the gallery spaces. The conservatory became an installation of muslin panels imprinted with poems and stories from creative writing sessions. The main area held paintings, sculpture, pottery, photographs and multimedia collages, while a small sitting area became an arbour of twisted willow to which people attached personal messages. Above all, it was a transformation of experiences of life-threatening illness into aesthetic experiences, the recognition of creativity, of making art where sensing, perceiving and imagining merge the unconscious and conscious, the inner and outer self. For many, this experience of creative living, the discovery of something real and beautiful, transformed pain and chaos into creative silence and order.

‘When I begin to paint, I forget I am in pain. For an hour or more I forget everything except my painting.’

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