Paintings in Hospitals Collaborates with Penylan House Nursing Home in South Wales: Bringing Art and Artistic Workshops to Residents, with Amazing Results

Residents at Penylan House Nursing Home in South Wales have enjoyed six weeks of artistic workshops with art practitioners from varying specialisms and drawing upon specially selected artwork from our collection, for inspiration. The project, which was funded by the National Lottery Awards for All, was created by Paintings in Hospitals and brilliantly run by the project manager, Nick Davies, a practicing visual artist based in South Wales. Nick recruited and worked alongside three other arts practitioners to introduce sessions in textile design, printmaking, and painting, for residents to enjoy.

Each artist was given the task of choosing six artworks from the Paintings in Hospitals collection which were installed in the ground and first floor areas of Penylan House, to familiarise residents with the artworks. The ensuing workshops involved each artist introducing their craft, demonstrating different techniques, talking about the artworks, and engaging the residents in creating works of their own. The response was amazing.

The first art practitioner, Claire Cawte, a Textile Artist specialising in natural fibres and plant dyes, brought sensory, tactile, and thought-provoking felt-making activities to the group.  Using the artworks from the collection to encourage creative stimulus amongst the residents, they were soon creating their own textile works in response.

The residents choosing their base layers to begin their felting.

John, aged 99 and one of the eldest residents at Penylan Care home, attended every session with all three artists, both morning and afternoons. “His energy and enthusiasm was incredible,” said Claire. Remarking that “John was a vocal character who grasped your arm whilst talking to you.” When John was asked what he might say to someone coming to a Care home and wishing to embark on creative activities he commented, “I’m proud of myself. I wasn’t clever but everything I’ve learned from other people, I’ve tried myself. You ask me to do anything, and I’ll try and do it. I can’t hear and I can’t see, but I know anybody teaching anyone (even younger than me) can have a go. It’s completely new to me and I’ve tried to have a go.”

John following the lines from The Old Schoolhouse, Cwm Pennant, by Kyffin Williams and part of the PiH Collection.

Nichola Goff, a multidisciplinary printmaker, facilitator and Arts, Health & Wellbeing practitioner, whose work explores human connection to place, ecology and social justice, chose ‘Black Bird’ by the artist Josef Herman as one of her selected artworks. The residents were soon exploring mono printing techniques using pens and carbon papers to create compositions.


Black Bird by Josef Herman part of the PiH Collection.

Residents were encouraged to consider what inspires them, how they engage with art, and to explore themes such as nature, community, heritage, and reminiscence. The result was increased connection between the group. As one resident, Ellen, commented “Best part is making friends. All you people here are my friends.”

The third artist, Sue Hunt, a Visual Artist with extensive experience within the fields of teaching and healthcare, brought an empathetic approach to her facilitation. Inspired by her observations of the natural world, her approach worked well to instigate a curiosity, in particular linking with one of the selected artists Maggie James. A selection of Sue’s paintings are also a part of the Paintings in Hospitals and are currently on display at the University Hospital Llandough Stroke Rehabilitation Unit.

A resident participating in Sue Hunt's workshop inspire by flowers.

During one of the sessions the very eldest resident a former art teacher in Cardiff, was not able to attend the full day session with the other participants. Therefore, Sue took a vase of her garden flowers and some drawing materials to enable him to continue his drawing in the comfort of his own room.

All of the artists said they found the sessions very rewarding, introducing processes and seeing the residents so engaged. “They shared stories with me and with one another, the whole process seemed to awaken something in them that appeared initially dormant,” said Sue.

Each of the two sessions per day lasted about an hour and a half with many people who attended the morning session returning in the afternoon, along with some new residents joining them. It was wonderful to see the artworks developing and the personalities of the residents shining through the work, as they grew in confidence and had a chance to be sociable.

The group expressed enthusiastic agreement that it was lovely to be creative and see everyone enjoying themselves. The sessions provided an opportunity to become better friends and meet new people. They shared wonderful stories from their younger days, regarding their professional life, families and often war stories. The activities also gave the participants a challenge that could be difficult at times, which is good for keeping memory and motor functions exercised, as well as providing a greater sense of achievement.

Residents participating in a workshop with art practitioner and staff present.

“Art is an expressive therapy” says Flor Nessbert: Activities Coordinator at Penylan Care Home.

“I myself use art to disconnect from the rushed days. I’ve noticed the positive changes in our residents when they have attended the workshops. It has given them a sense of achievement and belonging. It opened the door to fond memories, but also has given them the time to discuss and socialise. Art is a way to communicate emotions.”

The project culminated in the physical installation of artworks from the Paintings in Hospitals collection which will remain exhibited at the home for 12 months.  They are displayed alongside the pieces created by the residents themselves and friends and family were invited to attend a special cheese and wine event to see the artwork, and to celebrate the residents’ incredible artistic achievements and a renewed joy for life.