Works Like People II is a series of site-specific artworks by Tom Ellis, commissioned by Paintings in Hospitals in partnership with The Wallace Collection. Here Edwina Mileham, Community Officer at the Wallace Collection, takes us through the community programme set up around the project.

As a part of the Works Like People II project, the Wallace Collection’s Community Programme has been working in partnership with Painting in Hospitals, together with the four GPs surgeries in London. We have set up a programme to work with their local community groups to support their engagement with Tom Ellis’s recent paintings on display in their waiting rooms and meeting spaces.

From July to November 2016, we will be holding a variety of different events across the GP surgeries, such as photography and drawing workshops. We will also be working with Patient Participation Groups and health care staff attached to the GP surgeries.

We have been working with members of Bromley by Bow’s local community to form the People’s Group, which has become a steering group for the project. Their contributions during the sessions have helped to form the interpretation materials for all of the artworks.

The first meeting was held in June to discuss the project and get their thoughts and ideas about the Wallace Collection, Painting in Hospitals and Tom Ellis’s work. Questions were posed to the group to stimulate discussion such as:

Can art save a life?

On the 25 July, we held our second meeting with the group to view Ellis’s painting, which had recently been installed in the waiting room. Below are a few responses from the group.

“At first I didn’t understand it, but then I started to look at it and see the different types of animals, it’s like a wild life painting.”

“To me the painting with its new shape along with the heater looked complete and peaceful. The whole colour in terms of the environment did not seem unfinished at all to me.”

The painting around a radiator is like it was always meant to be...

In the afternoon, we looked at a draft of the information leaflet, which will be available in the waiting rooms as another form of interpretation. The group came up with some really interesting feedback to improve the information sheet. They felt some necessary information had been missed by all parties which highlighted to us all the importance of audience participation.

The People’s Group next sessions will be a visit to the Wallace Collection and hopefully to all four GP surgeries to view the work.   

In July we held our first event at Mill Hill Surgery in Acton, with the West Ealing Deaf and Hard of Hearing Women’s group. Fourteen women participated in the workshops, many from different cultures. They visited Mill Hill surgery to view Ellis’s painting and then photograph the waiting room area. This was a part of a bigger four-week photography project, with Wallace Collection freelancer photographer Gisela Torre. During these sessions the group learnt photography techniques such as using reflectors and working in a team to set up shots with the aim to develop their photography skills and to create a series photographs.

The group were asked what they thought of the painting, overall they liked the work of art. Questions were asked such as “Is the work unfinished, where is the colour?” “Did a child do this?” These questions stimulated discussion amongst the group and together we talked about the work being inspired by drawings of animals made by teenagers from the Wallace Youth.  The group felt that knowing this helped them interpret the work.

The group were set the task of photographing Ellis’s painting and then setting up a photoshoot with the participants of the group modelling in waiting room. This was quite a challenge as it was a very different environment to their previous photo shoots at the Wallace Collection. For many it was the first time they had photographed a contemporary artwork.

Looking forward to August we will be working with Westminster’s Memory Café and Westminster Arts to run a session for people living with dementia at Victoria Medical Centre.

Find out more about our Works Like People II project: