A peek inside the world of Cloudlands Dublin
At Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, Dublin, adolescents are finding outlets for their creativity and imagination through Helium’s Cloudlands project. Cloudlands Dublin is a three-year arts and technology project supported by the BNP Paribas Foundation through the Smart Start programme, The Arts Council, and Dublin City Council. Now in its second year, artist-in-residence Rachel Tynan has been collaborating with young people on the wards over the last nine months on a diverse range of artistic projects, bringing joy, increased socialisation and a sense of ownership to the hospital space. Below are some highlights and outcomes from Cloudlands Dublin Year 2.
How does the project work?
Artist Rachel Tynan works with the teens mainly at the bedside in one-on-one interactions. Most of these teens collaborate with Rachel over an extended period of time. New participants are often inspired by the work of teens before them, which they can access via the dedicated Cloudlands Online Space and Rachel’s iPad slideshow. This year Rachel has added a number of new artistic methods that teens can engage with, including ice sculpture, quilting, sound sensors, t-shirt making and lantern making.
“It is vital for teenagers. People tend to think of younger children and forget the teens sick as well. They are the forgotten group in someways and the project makes a huge difference to their stay.” – Staff member
What are the benefits of the project for teen participants?
Communication and Peer Support – Connecting Teens with Teens through the creative process
Rachel is connecting all the participating teenagers through a sound-quilt making process, whereby each teenager contributes a panel to the quilt. Each panel represents a teen’s story, containing both an image and embedded sound. The quilt demonstrates a creative conversation around the young people’s collective experiences.
The artist spends half her time with teens on the dialysis unit and these participants have now become connected both socially and symbolically through their projects. Two of the teens participating on Cloudlands, who sit in neighbouring beds, have now begun to chat about their creative projects. Many of the teenagers are connected thematically through their stories.
“The project made a great difference to my child’s day as it helped to take her mind off the whole dialysis session which lasts four hours.” – Parent
Re-imagining the hospital space / experience
Hospital rooms and corridors are often transformed on the project; this year, for example, Rachel and one of the teenagers created an ice castle which remained on the ward for the day. The nurses and other parents all came to see what was happening and dropped in throughout the day to watch as it melted. The artist is also working with the teenagers on hearing the hospital environment differently, by recording surrounding hospital sounds which form alternative sound-scapes within animations and films. In this way, the recorded sound of the dialysis machine whooshing became embedded into a soundtrack of the ocean and on another occasion became the sound of wind.
“These hospital sounds actually sound calming if you remove them from the physical atmosphere of being in the ward.” – Artist’s Journal
Socialisation – Growth of Community around the Teenager
Cloudlands is working to reduce the isolation some teenagers experience in hospital. Through the creative process, teenagers are not only connecting more to each other but also to their immediate community (the hospital staff, parents, etc), their home community (e.g.school and family) and to a new wider community.
For example, one regular teenage participant has been working on a Russian Dolls installation which has taken on a new life inside and outside the hospital. About a dozen dolls were dispatched into various areas of the hospital, each containing a riddle related to the teenager’s story. Passers-by were encouraged to guess the answer and leave it in a note in the doll for the teenager to collect at a later time. The teenager also posted the dolls to friends and family members from England to Pakistan with a request that they take photos of them in various locations related to her story.
The role of technology
Through the Cloudlands online space, teenagers can engage with the online gallery by posting images of their artistic work and drawing inspiration from the work of others across wards and in University Hospital Galway. There is also an online forum on which the teens can post new ideas for creative projects, develop these projects with other teens, and comment on each other’s creative processes. An online public gallery will be launched this year, bringing their stories and artistry beyond the hospital walls.
“It makes a huge difference. It is a distraction from their illness and all the procedures they have to go through. I have seen it lift their spirits and change their outlook for the better.” – Staff member