HeART - ARtful Wellbeing
HEART BEGAN AS A PILOT ARTS AND HEALTH DIVERSIONARY PROGRAM IN 2014. THE PILOT WAS RUN AT THE ALAN WALKER CANCER CARE CENTRE, ROYAL DARWIN HOSPITAL. IN RESPONSE TO THE SUCCESS OF THE PILOT PROGRAM, HeART CONTINUED IN 2015 WITH A FURTHER RESEARCH PROJECT, CONDUCTED BY DR GRETCHEN ENNIS AND PROFESSOR MARILYNNE KIRSHBAUM, AND FUNDED BY THE SCHOOL OF HEALTH, CHARLES DARWIN UNIVERSITY.
HeART - Artful Wellbeing
2014 Pilot Program
HeART – Artful Wellbeing began as a pilot arts and health diversionary program in 2014. The pilot was run at the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre, Royal Darwin Hospital. The pilot “road tested” several diversionary projects in which artists engaged with patients, visitors and staff at the Centre. The pilot was evaluated by Dr Gretchen Ennis, School of Health, CDU (with ethics approval from Menzies School of Health and Charles Darwin University).
The pilot included a range of arts disciplines as follows:
Performance, workshops, & exhibitions in Chemo Suite and Waiting Rooms of Alan Walker Cancer Centre
A range of artists engaged with patients, staff and visitors at the Alan Walker Centre. These artistic activities were designed to be engaging, small scale, non-intrusive, and accessible to patients and their visitors while undergoing treatment in the chemo suite or waiting in the waiting rooms. Patients were made aware in advance of the upcoming activity so as to avoid any feeling of being “ambushed”. The activities were:
craft workshops with Aly de Groot. Aly ran workshops in jewellery making and silk scarf dying for patients in the chemo suite and radiotherapy waiting room.
acoustic music performance by Dave Garnham. Dave was commissioned to write a song for Breast Awareness month. Dave performed this and other music in the foyer of the Royal Darwin Hospital and in the Alan Walker chemo suite.
circus workshops for staff and visitors as part of The Biggest Morning Tea at Alan Walker – Corrugated Iron Youth Arts provided the artists for this.
exhibition of work by local artist, Bryan Bulley, hung on the walls at Alan Walker – Darwin Visual Arts Association assisted with the coordination of this.
Film-making and Writing project for cancer patients
Mary Anne Butler and Huni Bolliger ran writing and film-making workshops for a group of cancer patients. The workshops were held at the Frog Hollow Arts Centre, to trial running workshops in the community rather than at the hospital. The idea of this workshop was to provide a creative and relaxed environment, which encouraged participants to engage with each other, share experiences and express themselves. A short film (several minutes) was created, to be shared with other cancer patients.
Boab Garden Mural
Linda Joy and Sonya Martignon created a large Boab Garden mural which is used by patients to mark the completion of their treatment. The mural hangs in the education room at Alan Walker. This room is used to conduct orientations and introduce new patients to the treatment they will undergo at the Centre. Upon completing treatment, the patients are given a paper boab leaf or boab nut to write a message on and add to the mural.
In response to the success of the pilot program, HeART continued in 2015 with a further research project, conducted by Dr Gretchen Ennis and Professor Marilynne Kirshbaum, and funded by the School of Health, Charles Darwin University.
The research was entitled: ART in Cancer Care: Exploring the role of experiential arts programs in the Top End and the establishment of HeART – Artful Well-being.
The study explored the role of arts (writing, painting, drama, sculpture, singing, ‘crafting’) in promoting well-being for people following a diagnosis of cancer. The study builds on the expertise of two university researchers, an arts producer and three local NT artists who have joined together to advance their interests within one innovative and exciting project. The project is significant because fatigue is an almost universal and often debilitating effect of cancer and its treatment, along with feelings of isolation, physical pain, emotional pain, anxiety, depression, anger and denial. Fatigue and extreme tiredness affects so many others, within all communities.
The theoretical underpinning of this study rests within Attention Restorative Theory and its adaptation to the cancer community as Energy Restoration Theory and Model, as an approach to foster well-being and reduce fatigue through engagement in pleasurable activities that stimulate, uplift and fascinate a person. While it is known that participating in the arts, as a creator or observer, makes people feel good, we wanted to better understand how this works for people living with, or recovering from cancer treatment.
To do this, we documented the experiences of 16 people throughout an 8 week arts program. Two groups were run concurrently on Tuesday and Wednesdays, led by professional artists who were carefully selected for their teaching and supportive attributes – Aly de Groot, Linda Joy and Merrilee Mills. The Tuesday group participated in art-making sessions on painting, papier mache, scarf dying, button jewellery and fibre sculpture. The Wednesday group participants experienced a wide range of activities and exercises within the realms of drama, poetry and music.
The overarching findings of the research have been expressed as the Five Attributes of Energy Restoration in relation to wellbeing through art. These are:
Expansive (self-development and learning)
Interactive (sharing and belonging to the group)
Nurturing (safe to create, relaxing, not stressful)
Purposeful (achievement, commitment)
Stimulation (uplifting, fascinating).