Royal on the Move
Miranda Lawry's role in the initiative involved a series of enlarged digital photographs showing views of the ocean as seen through the windows of the Royal
Internationally, there is growing evidence that art and creativity can have a positive impact on our health. It is this notion that is driving the University's new ArtsHealth Research Centre and a unique project in the School of Drama, Fine Art and Music.
PhD candidate and arts/health researcher, Rachel Burgess, is a particularly avid follower of the philosophy.
"For the individual, engagement in artistic activity can become a new medium for communication, well-being and self esteem," Burgess said. "It can alleviate stress and anxiety, and generate positive psychological and physiological changes."
The concept of art as community cultural development was recently used with great success in The Royal on the Move project.
The initiative, jointly funded and developed by the University and Hunter New England Health's John Hunter Hospital (JHH), aimed to document and celebrate the closure of the iconic Royal Newcastle Hospital and the opening of a new facility.
"Relocation of services from the Royal, which had stood overlooking the Pacific Ocean for almost 200 years, to a new home at the John Hunter aroused strong feelings of loss and dislocation," JHH Arts for Health Co-ordinator, Pippa Robinson explained.
The Royal on the Move initiative aimed to acknowledge that loss while easing the burden of change.
Consisting of two related areas of artistic enquiry, the first component of the project was a street procession and drama production, staged in March 2006 bringing together more than 2000 people - including many academics and students from the University.
The project's second component was the commissioning of artworks by the University's Professor Anne Graham and Miranda Lawry.
Lawry's role in the initiative involved a series of enlarged digital photographs showing views of the ocean as seen through the windows of the Royal.
"The images, which scale the walls of the John Hunter Hospital's Central Cafe, interpret the exact window views to the ocean where hospital staff and former patients told me they recalled their most vivid memories," Lawry said.
"The element of light, so apparent from within the hospital's interior, is captured through seasonal change, climatic conditions and time of day. One of the images even pays homage the element of salt - showing it caked on a window."
Complementing Lawry's images and also on display in the Royal Wing is Anne Graham's mini museum - a collection of memorabilia gathered from the Royal prior to its closure.
As well as the more obvious items such as medical instruments - both ancient and modern - the collection also contains many quirky elements. The more interesting paraphernalia includes silverware from the doctors' dining room, the original ornate bronze handles from the entrance doors and a rag doll thought to be used to coach first time mothers.
"The intention of the installation was to publicly validate the diverse aspects of daily working life in the hospital over its history," Graham said. "Dialogical art, such as this, can contribute to the acceptance of change. It is a concept of art working with communities."
'This overall Royal on the Move project was based on the methodology of relational aesthetics. We purposely linked together the elements of music, performance and creative practice to create a representation of the old environment and give it a home in the new location."
While arranging and hanging the evocative images, Graham and Lawry realised staff members were taking ownership of particular windows. They would proudly point out "their window" - the one which showed the view from their respective workplace in the Royal.
Graham and Lawry believe art is a vital component in good health which can be used as calming, healing and recuperative factors. This belief has been borne out by the response to the digital images and mini museum in the Royal Wing at JHH.
By Cae Pattison, Media and Public Relations Unit