A swirling mural showing bodies and blue, on the wall of a hospital ward.

Hospital Rooms: helping mental health with art

Posted on 30 June 2016

A Grants for the Arts funded initiative is helping minds and changing lives in south west London

A project is underway in Tooting, helping to improve the health and aid recovery of patients with mental health issues using art.

Hospital Rooms is an initiative from curator Niamh White and artist Tim A Shaw to install world class artworks in NHS hospital wards around the country.

A wall is covered in square photos and images
The Relatives' Room, by Mark Power and Jo Coles. Photo © Tim A Shaw

The launch project has been taking place at The Phoenix Unit, a secure psychiatric rehabilitation residential ward in Tooting for up to 18 patients who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

It brings together prominent artists with specialists from South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust.

Dr Emma Whicher, Medical Director, said: “I am really excited by the Hospital Rooms project. It is hugely beneficial to our patients and staff and means that museum quality artwork is available to our patients, which greatly contributes to their recovery and care”.

A still-life of flowers, with the paint seemingly melting and dripping down.
'Pale Rose' by Nick Knight. Photo © Tim A Shaw

Niamh White, said: “Our desire is for art to have a direct and practical social impact. The participating artists have the potential to create art installations that rival presentations in our top London museums whilst at the same time being completely safe and secure for this environment.”

Artists involved are: Nick Knight OBE, Gavin Turk (one of the original ‘Young British Artists’), 2015 Turner Prize winners Assemble, renowned architecture collective Acconci Studio, Michael O’Reilly, Aimée Parrott, Tim A Shaw, and landscape architect Joh Bates.

They worked directly with the patients, as well as consultants, clinicians, and occupational therapists, to create aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking artworks or installations that go beyond pictures on the wall.

A view of a courtyard, with wooden and metal structures.
The Phoenix Unit Courtyard, designed by Jon Bates. Photo © Tim A Shaw

Nick Knight OBE, said: “Some of the most creative and accomplished people that I have known have encountered difficulty with their mental health at one stage or another.

“Making vulnerable patients' environments pleasant and stimulating is of the utmost importance and would be conducive to recovery and recuperation.”


A man and a woman stand in front of the colourful canteen they have redesigned.
Tim A Shaw and Niamh White, founders of Hospital Rooms.

Hospital Rooms received funding from the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts programme. An open event today, Thursday 30 June, celebrates the Phoenix Unit project.