Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Local teenager helps to open first ever children’s hospital art gallery

A local teenager has helped to open the UK and Ireland’s first dedicated regional children and young people’s art gallery to be located in a hospital.  Developed by the charity, Arts Care and funded by Belfast Harbour, Arts in Business and Children in Need, the permanent gallery is in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. It will showcase art works produced by sick and vulnerable younger people from across Northern Ireland.

Thirteen year old Abby McConville, from Silverbridge, proudly exhibited her contribution to the permanent exhibition space which has been developed by Arts Care, Northern Ireland’s leading Arts in Health charity.

The contemporary gallery, desgined to professional gallery standards, will showcase art works produced by sick and vulnerable children and young people from across Northern Ireland as part of an ongoing initiative to give children and young people a ‘creative voice’.  Children will produce art with the help of Arts Care’s professional artist team and the aim is to reduce anxiety caused by their illnesses and healthcare treatment.

The gallery, known as ‘Cartwheel 999’, is funded by Belfast Harbour, Arts in Business and Children in Need, with the support of Northern Ireland’s five Health & Social Care Trusts and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  Located near the hospital’s new MRI scanner the gallery will be viewed by thousands of people every year.

Arts Care’s CEO and Artistic Director, Dr. Jenny Elliott, desrcibed the gallery as a “a landmark development for the arts in health.”

“Every year thousands of children and young people in Northern Ireland live with huge challenges such as serious or life limiting illnesses or poor mental health.  For the past 25 years Arts Care has worked closely with healthcare professionals and professional artists, using the arts to help children and their families cope with profoundly difficult circumstances.

“Arts projects have a track record of delivering tangible, clinical benefits – helping give children a voice and unlocking their creativity at a time when they can feel anxious and vulnerable.  The bespoke gallery will be an innovative arts opportunity for local children and young people, and we hope that it will become one of the UK and Ireland’s most significant arts venues.

“Named ‘Cartwheel 999’ after Arts Care’s new children’s strategy, the new gallery will be a focal point for arts in health projects from across Northern Ireland.”

The theme of the first art exhibition is the Belfast Harbour’s skyline. The art work was created by children who took part in Arts Care workshops in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Musgrave Park Hospital and Forest Lodge Respite Unit.

Speaking at the official opening of the gallery, Silverbridge girl Abby said:

“Art helps take your mind off the scary things that happen in hospital and l really enjoyed taking part in the exhibition. I liked doing messy art and also being very precise with fine markers.”

Dr Michael Mc Bride Chief Executive of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said he was honoured to be at the official opening of such an important venue and added that the gallery represented “an expressive opportunity for our younger patients to share their feelings and emotions, it gives them a visual voice and has untold creative and therapeutic benefits.

“I wish to thank the Arts Care team and all the staff at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children for making this possible.  Additional praise must go to the organisations whose generous funding brought this concept to life. This art project is an excellent example of partnership opportunities between health organisations, the community and other stakeholder organisations.”

As part of its 25th Anniversary celebrations Arts Care is launching a new fundraising campaign as part of its ‘Cartwheel 999’ strategy.  The charity hopes to raise almost £100,000 by asking 99 businesses to donate £999 each.