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In March I invited Fine Artist, Maria Hayes to come up with a proposal for an installation for the corridor at Aberbeeg Hospital, where I had recently become Director, and all this week Maria has been working in the hospital as Artist in Residence on her first ‘Recovery Tree’.

Maria Hayes BA(Hons) MA PhD trained as a Fine Artist and started to deliver arts projects, workshops and courses in 1986 as a freelance practitioner. She has worked in the sector of Arts in Health from the beginning of this career and is now highly skilled in this area, understanding fully the positive impact that the arts can have on mental health and wellbeing.

‘Drawing is both an innate and a teachable skill. Engaging in creative practices – for their own sake — is transformative. It transforms the perception of the practitioner from ‘I can’t draw’ to ‘I can draw’ and this is good for mental health and wellbeing. It offers an authentic way to engage with and experience the world. It grows people.’

The Recovery Tree

It was important to Maria and I that the process of creating the mural was a participatory one. ‘The tree offered the possibility of painting just a leaf – not too demanding or challenging, but a good way to experience the painting process and enough to offer ownership of the final mural…

… By Wednesday I encouraged and followed suggestions from staff and patients for additions to the mural. Animals and birds began to populate the tree and its environs. Everyone responded positively to these additions and they personalised the painting. There was a great deal of sociability as we worked, an increasing amount of laughter and pleasure, as well as times of quiet where you could sense everyone’s concentration and absorption. I was not worried by the occasional outbursts from the patients – I expected these. I was confident that the staff would handle the situation and I just got on with my job. It did not affect how I interacted with the patients.

By the end of the week the mural was completed with words, animals, birds and tree in all four seasons and personalised messages on the self-adhesive leaves. On the last day gold, silver and bronze pens added decoration to the letters and to some of the autumn leaves.’

This has been an amazingly successful project! The tree mural is beautiful, tasteful and staff, ancillary workers and patients were all involved in it’s creation. I also can’t deny the feeling of pride I get when I see my two dogs featured at the base of the tree!

I am delighted to say that, following the success of this project, Maria Hayes has been offered a part time contract for one year, to work in other hospitals around the county.