Art meets life and life meets art in the exciting project 'Works Like People II

Published: 26 Oct 2016

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Here at the Bromley by Bow Centre we have a long held belief in the power of art to not only transform physical spaces but also the lives of individuals and communities that use them, so we are always looking to find ways to open up access and offer opportunity to participate in artistic and cultural experiences for our community.

And the project Works Like People II has done just that, ensuring once again, that everyone regardless of age, disability or illness, should have access to the proven wellbeing benefits of visual art.

Works Like People II uses art’s ability to explore and subvert, questioning notions of what a primary care space should be like, challenging ideas about what type of art is appropriate for patients, carers and staff in these spaces and engaging local people in a conversations about art and why it is important to have in our lives.

 How has Works Like People II  worked?

 So over the past few months the Bromley by Bow Centre and Health Centre has had the privilege to collaborate with the illustrious museum The Wallace Collection and renowned arts and health charity Paintings in Hospitals. These two amazing organisations commissioned the celebrated contemporary artist Tom Ellisto create artwork for an exhibition at Wallace and also to produce bespoke artworks for four GP practices across London of which we are one. This challenge of exhibiting contemporary artworks in non-neutral, aesthetically-complex environments appealed to artist Tom Ellis whose work has been exhibited across the world but more often than not in the white walled spaces of art galleries. 

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His artwork for Works Like People II, was inspired in part by Picasso’s Guernica. Although at its heart endeavours and succeeds in being sensitive and generous to those who would see it each time they came into the space, like all good art also has underlying questions of tension and confusion, and with contemplation the viewer is gently prompted to ask questions about life and humanity.  

With the prospect of one of Tom’s works to be hung on the wall of our Health Centre’s waiting room, we were keen to find ways to enable people to connect with the work and the wider project. We invited patients at the Health Centre and people from the local community to form a group to help shape the project here. This diverse group of extraordinary individuals named The People’s Group met together regularly over the course of the project to discuss the relevance of art in our health centre, examine and critique Tom’s work, support the writing of the information leaflets and interpretation text and take learning trips to the Wallace Collection. 

This community engagement has really brought the project to life! With dynamic art as the vehicle, there has been a renewed focus and energy on how we as a community connect to one another and the spaces we share!

At the end of September the Bromley by Bow Centre and Health Centre played host to a brilliant special event celebrating the whole of the project across the four GP sites and the Wallace Collection. We welcomed the great and good from the Arts and Health worlds as well as our local community. Guests enjoyed great food and drink, live music by the wonderful Bow Creek Ramblers and were taken on guided tours of the artwork by members of the People’s Group. The latter part of the evening was given over to a panel discussion and Q&A chaired by Paintings In Hospitals Director Ben Pierce, with some of the key contributors of the project including the artist Tom Ellis, Simone Stewart (curator) and Edwina Mileham (education manager) from the Wallace Collection, and Mumtaz and Kadria from the People’s Group.

Tom’s work is up until the end of November so do pop in to see it both here, at the other sites and also his exhibition at the Wallace Collection.  

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And if you want to hear a bit more about this fantastic project do read some great blog posts here:

The Power of Uncertainty, The Power of Art by Tom Ellis

Works Like People II: Community by Edwina Mileham, Community Officer at the Wallace Collection

Art Meets Life / Life Meets Art by Lucy Wells, Inclusive Arts Manager at Bromley by Bow Centre

For information on all Inclusive Arts events, projects and groups here at the Bromley by Bow Centre, please contact Inclusive Arts manager, Lucy Wells; lucy.wells@bbbbc.org.uk

 A bit about the partners:

The Wallace Collection is one of the most significant collections of fine and decorative arts in the world, has exhibited works by contemporary artists in dialogue with its historic collection for over a decade, and since 1959, Paintings in Hospitals has held the UK’s first and only national art collection specifically created and curated for display within health and social care spaces.

Together they conceived The Works Like People II project which is specifically conceived with healthcare staff and their patients in mind, to enhance the care environment through the introduction and exploration of complex ideas surrounding comfort and familiarity