Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

The case for hospital art

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I was surprised to read such misleading comments in the Belfast Telegraph around the issue of the deployment of the 'per cent for art' principle in healthcare capital (Hospital art plan is not a pretty picture, August 13).

The 'per cent for art' principle relates to a very small part of a dedicated capital budget which is safeguarded in order to help create hospitals and other public healthcare buildings which enhance the lives of patients and staff, and of which we can be proud.

It clearly does not divert resources from hospital front line services.

Ring-fencing for integrated art allows for artists, design teams and commissioners together to provide welcoming and sympathetic environments. Consequently, the Arts Council welcomed the Department of Health's decision to formally adopt the 'per cent for art' principle as part of its capital investment in 2005, particularly as the new healthcare infrastructure for Northern Ireland is being rolled out.

This is Northern Ireland's chance to build the health facilities people deserve; and quality integrated art commissions for hospitals in Northern Ireland have already transformed buildings, for example the Mater Hospital, the Community Treatment and Care Centres at Holywood Arches and Bradbury Place and the Ulster Hospital (the recent focus of attention).

'Per cent for art' is an established principle internationally and its use in healthcare settings has enjoyed considerable appreciation. The multiple benefits of integrated art for new healthcare buildings have been well researched and are supported in the Government's Better Public Building Report, published in 2006. The principle is also contained in the integral approach of the inter-departmental Government Architecture and the Built Environment Policy, published by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in 2006.

We have raised this matter with the Minister for the Arts and other political representatives urging them to advocate strongly for the maintenance of the Government principle of 'per cent for art' and drawing attention to the strong and widely accepted case for its retention.

Rosemary Kelly, Chairman, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

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