Why make room for art; using art works to stimulate discussion

DATE POSTED: 23rd of July 2018

Throughout our ROOM FOR ART project we have been gathering stories from people about the difference the workshops make for them. We really try and avoid form filling where possible and recently worked with some groups to discover what they found was a good technique to collect this information. 

This was a particularly popular one: We put out about 20 images of artworks which were a mixture of images from the collection and from the workshops themselves. Art in Healthcare has a collection of around 1,600 works of art that we loan into hospitals and other healthcare settings and it is a great resource to use in workshops.  The collection can be seen online here.

All the images were chosen at random. We asked everyone to scan them all and ask themselves the question ‘why I make room for art?’  In one session, we even used a mindfulness technique to really spend time looking. Everyone then chose an image or images that symbolised their answer.

It was so fascinating to see how everyone interpreted the artworks and related them to their experience. It led to some really meaningful and often moving discussion. For some people, it’s hard to talk in a group especially about something so personal, so we will look at trying this out in 1:1 sessions also. 

I’m sure you’ll spot many themes emerging from the excerpts of the discussions below and as many of the groups are taking a summer break, we’ll set aside time to really analyse all the information we have collected so far.

Rollercoaster’, Nicola Wakeling, Monoprint, 2009

 “Lots of days like that…rollercoaster days…lots of days like that  (pointing to the bottom) that’s the days your looking for (pointing to the top right hand side) …and that’s what art brings ye…free and up in the sky…just having a really good time and everything is fine.” 

‘Wee Friends’, Willie Rodger, Linocut, 2002

“I was drawn to this one as there is a lot of joy in the figures and there is a lot of joy in this class and I really look forward to coming along and seeing you all.”


Image from a ROOM FOR ART workshop in Wester Hailes

“I’ve chosen this one because we’ve talked about this as a recurring theme to just have the time to notice ordinary things.  It reminds me that just from ordinary small things you can create art. In this group it’s about taking the time to notice and that’s what we don’t get time for in our general lives, everything is very fast paced and if you’re a carer then more so. So just taking the time to concentrate on one thing.”

‘The Park’, Alison Mountain, Linocut, 1997

“I feel like it’s taken me from the darkness into the joy and into the light. That it does give us time and you can use any colours you want so you can go from this darkness to this playfulness….the playfulness wi’ the ball …using all these colours to realise our playfulness.”

“I picked this one – I thought it was interesting – it’s got big bold lines and I like that it’s dark in the side …it’s kind of abstract…you don’t really know if they’re happy and dancing…I guess they are. I really like doing art but I never really have the time…it gives me the confidence to try new things …it’s good to come and see you guys every week.”

Decline’, Ade Adesina, Linocut, 2013

“That reminded me of being stuck in darkness…feeling like there’s too many demands on you… taking on stuff an pleasing people all the time and not really pleasing myself. Sometimes I feel pulled back into there (pointing to black) so there battles going on …they’re tugging with each other. I feel like I get walked all over and I’m not assertive enough to speak up for myself …but when I come here on a Monday, I feel like I’m me again …my life is my life as well…not just other folks. I feel free here … I feel stronger going back, because I’ve had time out …just do something I enjoy. It’s hard to do that sometimes even with my physical health because I get lots of pains sometimes”

“The idea that you want to escape and take your mind off ….. and the idea that you want to look at other people’s work and get inspiration……it’s good to do it in the group because you can feed off other people ….I was ‘prodded’ into doing things I wouldn’t otherwise because I do the same old things at home so it’s really good cos I’ve got outside my comfort zone yet I’m still comfortable! I really do look forward to it. There’s a little weird engine in this picture which has alerted me to the detail – because you said something about noticing thing about when you’re drawing them that you would never usually see ….and I hadn’t noticed that. I don’t particularly like it there. This is completely different…it takes you somewhere else and that’s the point I was trying to make that it takes you to a whole other place.”

Neighbourhood Watch’, Edwina Jill Wilkie, Woodcut, 1999

“Well mine is about washing…which is not as bad as you think because when I see this picture washing on the line…I see freedom…you can just soar…and that’s the feeling I get…..You feel you’re just out of the environment and you can just switch off and you feel a bit more refreshed to go back, it sort of gives you a lift. You’re thinking about things you can do. That goes throughout the week but when you come back you get more energised. You have a chat which is a big part of it as well - you hear about what’s going on in other people’s lives. I think it’s a sense of freedom ….you feel light….like this washing line. You feel like you’re in the wind and not aware of other things.”

View of the ROOM FOR ART workshops in Wester Hailes by Gavin Hendry, participant,2017

“I don’t know what this says about me – it’s the most colourful thing I could have chosen, but the date on it which is Sept 17’ which was just about the time this group started and it was about the time of my husband’s death. This just reminds me of Monday mornings where there is so much going on and everyone is doing something different and that’s what Mondays mean to me. It gets me up on a Monday morning, it starts the week off, I meet what I consider to be friends now, quite dear friends …that just means everything to me really. Although it’s not colourful in any way but from the time of my husband’s death to my life now and you are now part of it and I thank you very much. It means a lot to me this image”

Painting from Piershill library workshops, 2017

“I picked this one - even though I’ve left a bomb in the house…for the first time I’ve allowed myself to do that and come here and give myself that couple of hours….which is unheard of for me. When I did first come….not having a CLUE about art ….and I just painted bits of wood …and that reminds me of my first initial process of painting up and down with the brush. The colours are quite me but also experimenting….next step from that was abstract. This group has given me the opportunity to try things out I’ve never done….”


“Chose this one cos I like the colours and I think they’re calming. It reminds me of the sea a bit and when I look at the sea it relaxes me and I feel exactly like that in here. At home, I’ve got other things that distract me and I never really relax the same at home as what I do here. Art was something that I’ve never done for about 50 years or something and I thoroughly enjoy it now and I NEVER thought in a month of Sundays that I would! It’s a challenge as well for me because I feel I’m hopeless …it’s a challenge for me to try and make myself better…but that’s alright”

“I saw this one from over there…and it just felt so restful. I couldn’t really see clearly what it was but I just loved the colours. It’s a quiet, peaceful time…well I mean we talk…but it’s time out from everything else.”

Do you make room for art? Can you choose an image from our collection to represent why?

Art in Healthcare

July 2018

Iona McCann

Outreach Manager