Can creativity make us feel better?

Hospitals, for the most part, are dreary environments. Strip lighting, wipe-clean surfaces and miles of grubby paint do nothing to make us feel better. But can creativity change all that?

GP’s waiting rooms and hospital corridors aren’t generally designed as welcoming environments, and it’s a lucky person that isn’t familiar with the special NHS palette of greige – liberally applied across doctors’ offices and health centres all over the UK. But while there’s definitely a way to go, there are signs that we’re waking up to the ways art and design can improve things.

Arts organisation Vital Arts – which sits within the Barts Health NHS Trust – is at the forefront of this. Charitably-funded, it runs a hospital arts programme that commissions new, site-specific works by the likes of Morag Myerscough and Chris Haughton, as well as a participation programme that brings dance, music and literature and creative projects directly to patients across five east London hospitals.

“Although some patients might not regularly engage with culture, it’s really important that the art we are bringing into this public context is of exceptional quality,” says Catsou Roberts, Director at Vital Arts. “It should be nourishing, mind-opening. It could even be life-changing, if you consider that some people might be looking at art for the first time – for an extended period of time.