Hospice patients savour virtual art tour from the other side of the world

Patients in the Prince and Princess of Wales hospice will be taken on a unique interactive tour of Australia's National Portrait Gallery – all from the comfort of the Glasgow care centre's art room

The Prince and Princess of Wales hospice took its patients on a unique excursion to an art gallery in Australia – without ever leaving Scotland.

The virtual excursions team at Canberra’s National Portrait gallery usually deliver fully-interactive learning programmes and virtual excursions to remote communities Down Under. But now, patients of the Glasgow-based hospice experienced a unique gallery tour from more than 10,500 miles away in the comfort of the art room.

In what’s believed to be a first in a care setting in the UK, the patients received the virtual tour of six specially selected pieces of art from the gallery in the Aussie capital, complete with a curator talking them through each piece via live link.

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Self Portrait by Tracy Moffat – chosen as one of six pieces on display

The hospice art room, where the virtual excursion was held, was founded in 2003 and is currently staffed by three graduate artists. Kirsty Stansfield, who helped deliver the workshop explains how the project has found its way to Glasgow: “My colleague Sharon Goodlet won a Winston Churchill Fellowship Award to look into best practice in art amongst older people. While in Australia, she visited a whole range of different people delivering arts in healthcare services. She visited the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra where she discovered their virtual excursions.

“We’re always looking for new and unique ways of bringing art into the hospice and we saw the opportunity here to do that. People in the hospice aren’t always able to get out to see art, whether that be through illness or disability, or even lack of confidence.”

People saw different things in the work – they realised there were so many ways of reading a painting

The six portraits were chosen by the team behind the art room and the team in Canberra and will be shown one by one to the patients via the virtual gallery, displayed through a green screen in the National Portrait Gallery’s basement.

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The curator, Alana, walked the patients through the collection, discussing the techniques involved in each and some background information about the artists themselves. Patients then had the opportunity to participate in an interactive practical workshop, with guidance from the curator on how to recreate some of the techniques on display and assistance from the art room staff to complete their own inspired works.

Yellow Portrait by Lina Bryans – one of the pieces curated for the virtual excursion

“It was a really interesting experience and all the patients were very positive,” Kirsty said. “Some of the pieces of artwork on show were quite abstract and that generated a lot of conversations among the patients.

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“It was a great opportunity for people to have a conversation about art, offer an opinion and articulate more clearly what they were interested in. People saw different things in the work – they realised there were so many ways of reading a painting and that fascinated them.

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Patients on their virtual tour

“The drawing exercise patients did with the curator in Australia demonstrated to patients how they could be quite loose and encouraged them to experiment with different techniques. This is something we encourage and talk about a lot in the art room and after the exercise they really understood why it is important. Some of the drawing exercises pushed people out of their comfort zone, but they understood the reason behind it and how it might have an effect on their own art work, which was very positive. It generated such a great conversation about art and art making.

“Everyone appreciated the time the gallery staff in Australia gave, and the opportunity to speak to them and ask questions. They are really excited about what other galleries we can go to next.”

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