UWS students discover the therapeutic value of pictures

Date: 22/11/2002

University of Western Sydney Communication and Design students have proven the old adage 'a picture's worth a thousand words,' with an award winning photographic and digital display at Blacktown Hospital.

The students created the images to help ease the pain and suffering people endure as patients, visitors or workers while they are in the hospital environment.

The hospital is a very charged emotional environment. Some patients and visitors are there to receive good news, for example the birth of a baby or successful surgery, while others have to deal with trauma and stress.

"Artwork that has the best patient response is work that allows the patient to enter into the image in a positive and uplifting way. Three dimensional landscapes, forests, waterfalls, work that emphasises the passing of time and the 24-hour cycle, and caring faces have been found to be universal and cross cultural in their positive effect on patients,'' says Senior Lecturer in Photomedia at UWS, Robyn Stacey.

The pictures that are mounted on the walls of various wards at Blacktown Hospital have been used as doses of healing.

The hospital acknowledged the students' efforts by nominating UWS for a community service award. A special presentation, attended by Associate Professor Lynette Sheridan-Burns from the School of Communication, Design and Media, hospital representatives and community leaders was held recently at the Mt Druitt Hospital.

A separate award presentation was held for the UWS students, members of their families and friends, hospital staff and the art committee at Blacktown Hospital. Students were presented with prizes and certificates by Professor Emeritus Peter Castaldi, Chair of the Board of Directors, Western Sydney Area Health Services.

The challenge for the students was to make artworks that are transformative, images that can improve the situation for patients and visitors alike, says Ms Stacey.

"Before students can produce these art and design works they research the considerable body of literature about art and hospitals to better understand the issues and they visit the hospital to get a first hand understanding of the particular sites around the hospital where the artworks might be placed.

"Creating such fine work in an abstract environment was the biggest challenge facing our students. Sitting in the waiting area is often stressful for patients and families. These situations would be equally demanding for hospital staff. The images are meant to help ease the wait and pain. It is a special but an uncertain environment and the students take their cue from what they see, hear, read and feel,'' says Ms Stacey.

The project began in 1999 when the hospital was still under construction. The class of 38 students consulted with architects, hospital public relations personnel and visited the hospital often to capture the mood of the environment.

The hospital art committee selected the final artwork, displayed in the hospital. Students submit a 1:5 scale version of their artwork with an A3 mockup of their chosen site. They also produce a small booklet that contains a brief statement about their concept, has a detailed breakdown of costs and installation instructions, health and safety issues and maintenance.

The hospital pays for the printing, fabrication and mounting costs of the selected work.

Blacktown Hospital authorities have praised the students for their work, with the project extending to Mt Druitt Hospital next year.

For more information or requests for interviews:
Asha Chand
Senior Media Officer
Phone: 9678 7473
Mobile: 0402 340 591
Email: a.chand@uws.edu.au