Relationship between art and mental health explored in new exhibition

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

East Gallery NUA in Norwich has worked with London-based arts and mental health charity Hospital Rooms to bring a collaboration with Northside House into the public eye.

Hospital Rooms enters different types of inpatient mental health units, working with service users and staff to bring art into a setting where it is mainly inaccessible.  

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. Tim A Shaw, artist and co-founder of Hospital Rooms. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Visual escapism is at the core of the charity's manifesto, after a friend of co-founder Tim A Shaw's was admitted to a mental health unit and found the wards to be bleak and void of personality.

Northside House is a secure forensic male mental health unit on the edge of Norwich. It was selected by Hospital Rooms for the project, chosen from submissions made to the charity as often as every other day.

Six artists, including former head of fine art at Norwich University of the Arts, Carl Rowe, were selected by the charity to run workshops with the service users, alongside making a piece of art within the House.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. Work by Jade Montserrat (left) and Carl Rowe (right). - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Artist Cara Nahaul created tropical themed work. She spoke of the experience being "profound" and "meditative", as service users dedicated themselves to her workshop, saying art "breaks the barrier between you and another person whilst you're doing something with your hands".

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. Participating artist Cara Nahaul with her initial sketches for the project. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

The exhibition, which consists of replicas of the art within the House and work made by service users, sits within East Gallery NUA, as the project has been involved with NUA's research department.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. Image shows work made by service users. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

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Northside House has seen mood and wellbeing on the ward to increased since the project began.

Su Pashley, the people participation lead for secure and forensic mental health services at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, says the project has transformed the ward into a community, and she can't put into words how art has been able to do that.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Art's relationship with health has strengthened in recent years, with doctors more regularly social prescribing as our ways of life become more isolated. Speaking about this, curator of East Gallery NUA, Claire Allerton, says: "Arts and culture are so vital because they brings us all back together and can be non-verbal."

Northside House, Hospital Rooms exhibition at East Gallery NUA.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA. Work by a service user (left) and Richard Wentworth (above right). - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

The exhibition for this social-led art project spreads awareness of the benefits of art within locked settings, and involves the public in a project held behind closed doors.

After the success of the first project with Hospital Rooms, with one service user going on to create work in the ward independently, a workshop on site will be adapted into a social arts space, cafe and shop, with the help of the arts charity.

Northside House, Hospital Rooms in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norwich University of the Arts, is on at East Gallery NUA until January 15, 2022.