Connections Made Visible: Visualizing Patient Connections through the work of Nancy Corrigan, Artist on the Wards

November 5 - December 4, 2016

Opening Reception: Wednesday November 9 12-2 pm

The work of an Artist on the Wards is not about celebrating artistic skills in the hospital, but rather to shape experiences in a specific moment, at a particular place, with an individual patient. As artists engaging patients in an acute care hospital, there are often only moments to make a session engaging, sensitive, inspiring, resourceful, inventive, distracting, entertaining, or energizing. An artist’s work is to see the unlimited possibilities as to what can happen in this time.

Artists on the Wards are professionally trained writers, visual artists, and musicians and they bring their talents and skills to the bedside. But in addition to their artistic abilities, it takes a special person to be an exceptional Artist on the Wards. Observing the atmosphere in a room and sensing the mood and concerns of patients is crucial for establishing comfort and trust for a relaxed and meaningful experience.  The artist must be available to a patient by being transparent about what will occur, and open to receiving the emotions, stories, and realities of their situation. To patients, the artists can be a creative companion.  

The projects planned by an Artist on the Wards offer patients tools and learning opportunities, however these can be secondary to the emotional, social, and clinical benefits creative engagement can bring.  Ability aside, engaging a patient’s senses with the beauty of colour, movement, texture, and shape can help people open up. Patients begin to talk, laugh, share, discover and at times, be more accepting of their present situation. The connections created between the leader and the participant (and between participants in group circumstances) becomes the essence of a session. 

This exhibition focuses on the work of the Friends of University Hospitals’ Staff Artist on the Wards, Nancy Corrigan, who has been working with the program since she helped establish it in 1999. The cart full of art materials that she carefully maneuvers throughout the public and clinical spaces in the University Hospital is symbolic of the far-reaching and adaptable nature of what she does. Nancy’s presence is disarming while travelling to meet patients – bringing light, beauty and generative energy in a place where it is very much needed. The murals, sculptures, and individual drawings seen here were completed by patients under Nancy’s guidance – mostly in group scenarios. 

-curated by Tyler Sherard

Often with art groups over the years I facilitated introductory visual games such as dropping pebbles and marking where they land but talking about the journey the pebbles may have had or drawing lines to each other in a group on the same page. They are fun and cohesive. Eventually I realized these are CONNECTIONS MADE VISIBLE and to see that as an art itself.
— Nancy Corrigan
Nancy Corrigan brings years of experience as an art teacher with children, youth, adults, seniors and patients in drawing, painting, printing, soft sculpture, collage etc.  Her professional studies of Visual Arts, Expressive Arts Therapy, and Art history inform her own practice and respect for the creativity of others. Helping others to make sense of themselves and the world is a deep and personal passion. 

Nancy Corrigan brings years of experience as an art teacher with children, youth, adults, seniors and patients in drawing, painting, printing, soft sculpture, collage etc.  Her professional studies of Visual Arts, Expressive Arts Therapy, and Art history inform her own practice and respect for the creativity of others. Helping others to make sense of themselves and the world is a deep and personal passion.