My placement was spread across both Manchester Museum and The Whitworth Art Gallery in their Arts for Health programme. This is a partnership programme they have with Central Manchester University Hospitals which looks at how arts and culture can improve wellbeing in health care settings. Past projects have been varied and delivered to different wards across the hospital, each designed to address the individual needs of those patients.
The main aim of my placement was to create the resources for a new outreach project aimed at people living with dementia. This involved extensive research initially as my knowledge in current dementia engagement techniques was limited, but this was aided by my supervisor and new colleagues. I also needed to familiarise myself with the current Arts for Health projects, which was a fantastic and diverse experience as it meant getting involved in creative activities and participating in outreach sessions. The surrounding engagement teams were happy to allow me to partake and there were plenty of opportunities to do so.
I was much more involved in the activities of Manchester Museum than The Whitworth as the gallery was closed for the duration of my placement. Though it was closed, it was still very much part of my working placement brief and the things I engaged in and work I produced covered the collections from both institutions.
There were two of us who initially started placements at the same time, but it was not long before we lost each other as our placements took different paths. We would meet and discuss all the diverse activities we’d been involved in that week and catch up, but rarely in the expanse of the museum would our paths cross again. Each placement within the Arts for Health programme over the years has been so varied and often led by the individual skills each student brings to the project. It was identified early on that because of my art-textiles background I would be ideal to undertake the task of creating a set of resource activities, which I loved. One day I would be with my sewing machine, set up in the museum basement beavering away and the next I would be attending a conference, gathering information to feed back to the team. This diverse set of duties provided an rewarding challenge.
This was a wide spread and sometimes labour intensive placement but worth the reward. I gained so much additional experience from being situated within the Arts for Health programme, particularly from being in the hospital and care centre settings. This enabled me to put the theories that support arts for health work into context as well as be involved in a different sector and culture of working. I observed just how important a good working relationship was between both sides of this partnership for this work to be successful.
The methodologies and theories that support Arts for Health practices which I became familiar with on this placement have fed into my work in other areas of the course. This placement has allowed me to see first-hand the power of cultural practice based workshops as a way to enhance personal wellbeing. I also feel the placement assisted in evaluating my own professional practices, as both an artist and facilitator. It was also an incredible amount of fun, has led on to other opportunities and I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone in the future as a well-supported and positive placement option.