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Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

Commissions Programme

The strategy document included recommendations for a wide range of commissions for the new hospital and identified key sites and ideas for artists’ interventions to be realised through the programme, such as: the Chapel; the hydrotherapy pool; the exterior façade of the hospital; the Speech and Language Therapy Department; the X Ray Department; the main reception area and the Outpatients waiting area. Arising from Ray Smith’s residency came a proposal for ‘Private Worlds – Public Spaces’ miniature niches set intothe main stairwell creating unusual exhibition spaces at children’seye levels; and the ‘Sense of Our Place’ commission was proposed to reflect and celebrate the diversity of the cities, villages, and communities that the hospital serves across the south west of England and south Wales.

A national campaign recruited expressions of interest from over one hundred and fifty artists. In addition to the major collaboration between Ray Smith and Whicheloe Macfarlane MDP, more than twenty artists have taken part in residencies or created permanent artworks for particular areas and sites within the new hospital between 1997 and 2001. They include:

Aardman; Maria Amidu; Sonja Andrews; Carolyn Black; Louise Block; Lucy Casson; Elsa Corbluth; Michelle Duxbury; Frank Egerton; Eleanor Glover; Michael Hughes; Walter Jack; CatrinJones; Bertel Martin; Roger Michell; Tony Neilson; Terry Oldfield; Philip Power; Smadar Samson; LisaScattergood; Ruth Shaw; RosemaryShirley; Andrew Smith; Matthew Smith; Ray Smith; Elizabeth Turrell and Colleagues; Rolls Royce Graduate TraineeEngineers; Kit Williams.

Commissions include:

  • In a whole room design for the Hydrotherapy pool artist Roger Michell and poet Michael Hughes have collaborated on an extensive ceramic tile installation, which tells a fable in words and pictures of a boy rescued at sea by dolphins.
  • In the Speech and Language Therapy Unit Louise Block has worked with staff to create a ceramic wall-based work that uses the phonological symbolic alphabet providing a therapeutictool for use by staff and patients. An interactive light box of cast glass is installed within the department’s reception desk inviting children to enjoy the process of communication through play and experiment.
  • Artist Carolyn Black worked with Dr David Grier, Consultant in Radiology to explore the potential of X-Ray technology to create new photographic images. Their collaboration, which involved work with a group of young people, led to the creation of a kaleidoscopic table-top viewing box for the X Ray waiting area which allows patients to view a continually moving DVD sequence of the images created.
  • The support of donors and sponsors of the new building are acknowledged through a series of dazzlingly coloured enamel panels located throughout the building. Each panel incorporates details of the sponsor/supporter, and a unique design based on the images of children who worked with artist Elizabeth Turrell.
  • Interactive works were commissioned throughout the building in response to a need to create enjoyable distractions for families. In the reception area alone there are a number of inventive and lively works including a kinetic and musical dolphin clock by Kit Williamswhich features a monkey blowing bubbles and an interactive piece designed by Aardman Animations.

A publication celebrating the outcomes of the Arts Commissioning Programme includes further information and commentary on the project with full colour illustrations of many of the hospital interiors and artworks.

© Copyright Jane Connarty 2002.