Patient Artwork: New Dialogues

Outside In is delighted to announce the launch of Patient Artwork: New Dialogues, an ambitious new two-year project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project will bring together artists facing barriers to the art world with three organisations with historic collections from asylums and psychiatric hospitals, delivering specialist training programmes to support artists to develop new skills and perspectives on these archives.

The project will see Outside In working with three new partner organisations across the UK to deliver bespoke training programmes focusing on research, interpretation and curation.

Mouse – Unknown Artist/ Glasgow Museums

The partner organisations include Glasgow Museums (Glasgow), Glenside Hospital Museum (Bristol), and the Mental Health Museum (Wakefield).

About the project

Across the UK, a number of museums, galleries and archives hold collections of work created by patients who were at some point admitted into psychiatric hospitals. Work that has been created by artists or patients with first-hand experience of these hospitals gives an insight into the changing heritage of the treatment and attitude towards people experiencing mental health issues.

For Outside In and the partner organisations involved in this project, it is important to interpret and share these largely unresearched works as a primary source highlighting the history of mental health in the UK.

This project will focus on skilling up artists, who perhaps have their own experience of mental health issues, to be able to explore, research and interpret collections of historic art work created by patients during their time in psychiatric hospitals across the UK. It will give participants the opportunity to research and interpret the social and cultural heritage of former psychiatric hospitals across the UK, challenging who has the authority to interpret and talk about these works – is it medical professionals and art historians, or is it people who have had a similar life experience?

The Collections

Glenside Hospital Museum has an extensive collection telling the history of Bristol Psychiatric and Learning Disability Hospitals. The museum is set inside the Asylum chapel within the grounds of the purpose built hospital. It has over 80 documentary drawings of life at the hospital in the 1950s produced by Denis William Reed, an artist and patient at this time. Click here to visit their website.

Glasgow Museums now holds the renowned ‘Art Extraordinary’ collection that has been put together by pioneering Scottish art therapist Joyce Laing since 1977. To put her collection together, Laing visited as many psychiatric hospitals and old asylum sites in Scotland as possible. Starting at Craig Dunhain Hospital near Inverness and following Jean Dubuffet’s definition of art created outside the boundaries of official culture, Laing searched in hospital wards, gardens, outbuildings, under hedges and inside skips in order to find a range of work which she now labels ‘Art Extraordinary.’ Click here to visit the Open Museum website (Glasgow Life).

The Mental Health Museum is managed by the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and houses a remarkable collection of mental health related objects that span the history of mental health care from the early 19th century through to the present day. The museum also has vibrant outreach displays in changing locations and an exciting learning programme. Click here to visit their website.

How to get involved

As part of the two-year project, Outside In will be delivering a number of Step Up: Exploring Collections courses with each partner organisation, giving participants the opportunity to explore, research and interpret these fascinating collections.

Following these Exploring Collections courses, there will be an opportunity for participants to go on and take part in a Step Up: Curating Exhibitions course, supporting the design and delivery of an exhibition at each venue, showcasing work from the partner collections alongside interpretative responses created by Exploring Collections course participants.

You can find out more about our Step Up training courses by clicking here.

More information on how to apply for these opportunities will be released in the coming months. If you would like to register your interest, or have any questions about the project, please contact Kate Davey (Training Programme Manager) by emailing or calling 01273 381311.

This project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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