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The savage loves his native shore GIAF exhibition

Piece from the Savage Loves his Native Shore Exhibition

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust is celebrating three years of its dialysis art programme at Merlin Park University Hospital in a special partnership with NUI Galway for Galway International Arts Festival 2016. Since it was introduced in 2012, a prevalent source of inspiration for participants’ creative projects has been the West of Ireland and the exhibition takes this theme across two venues. Complementing artwork in the UHG Arts Corridor, The savage loves his native shore finds a fitting home at the National University of Ireland, Galway, to highlight the knowledge held by a hospital community that values its heritage. Items from the collections of the James Hardiman Library and the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life are exhibited alongside the work of participants. As well as familiar landscapes, the exhibition includes creative projects that explore self-sufficiency and changes in farming practice, and the arts of fly-tying and stick-dressing.

The dialysis arts programme was introduced to enhance the patient experience of dialysis in 2012 with the support of an Arts Council Arts Participation Project Award. In this project phase the participants published a book, exhibited at Galway Arts Centre and redesigned their waiting room. Since then the programme has continued with support from the Irish Kidney Association, Galway University Hospitals, Saolta, and the Unit 7 Patient Comfort Fund. Those participating find a more positive, productive use of their time, engaged in a way that distracts from worries and “makes the time fly”. One participant recently reflected on this by saying, “I think my brush takes me for a walk”.

Speaking at the launch of the participants’ publication The Magician and the Swallow’s Tale, Nephrologist Dr. David Lappin described the arts programme as “humanizing the environment, providing another level for on which medical professionals can engage with patients”.

This theme of human connections is obvious in the show, and clearly demonstrated in Staff Nurse Jacinta Reade’s decoupaged hayfork as part of an installation for Dan Brennan, a farmer from Creggs. The success of the arts programme owes much to a supportive nursing team. Clinical Nurse Manager, Maria Geraghty stated:

It has opened a whole new world for some patients. They now arrive with an eagerness to paint instead of dreading going on dialysis for 3-4 hours. Those who do not paint enjoy seeing the results of those who do. It has given everyone something different to talk about and brought out a very creative, artistic side to patients and staff alike. Rather than just discussing their health issues, patients and staff are now discussing how their art projects are coming together - a welcome distraction from the day-to-day routine of the dialysis unit, which is so important for mental and emotional wellbeing.

The inaugural exhibition at the Institute for Lifecourse and Society will be officially opened by Galway City Arts Officer James Harrold on Saturday 16th July. The ILAS brings together work in relation to targeted populations, such as persons with disabilities, older persons, children and families – providing an appropriate backdrop for an exhibition of work from an arts programme whose benefits were described by family as having a ‘ripple effect’.

As a continuation of the person-centred approach to art workshops, the afternoon for family and friends has been organised in response to participants’ interests, with a thatching demonstration for all those fond of a little Irish cottage and a traditional butter-making demonstration to accompany one participant’s hand-bound book recalling self-sufficiency on the farm.

The exhibition will pay tribute to participants who sadly passed away before the exhibition but whose creations in life provided an important focus on what was still possible and have now become unique legacies for their families. A series of flower paintings by Maureen Burke has been recreated as a range of accessories in fond memory of the former fashion buyer at Anthony Ryans of Galway. John Jack Murphy is remembered in a ‘pop up shop’ including his Birds of Ireland walking stick collection, a book he created with the project artist to accompany them, as well as a book he previously wrote about his experiences in the film The Quiet Man.  

Another book on display presents some of the best fly patterns to land a brown trout on Lough Corrib, created by the late Aidan Garvey when he accessed the arts programme in 2013. Though forced to give up sailing on his boat, the 1000th kidney transplant patient in Ireland was able to focus on aspects of his great passion that he excelled in. As the artist photographed his fly patterns he was able to appreciate his consummate craftsmanship as never before on a laptop, and their extended dialogue formed the text in the book, interweaving technical tips with reminiscence about local customs and licensing campaigns.


The exhibition is on display at the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, Corrib Village, NUI Galway and University Hospital Galway Arts Corridor.

The exhibition opens 11th - 24th July 2016, 10.00am - 6.00pm Institute for Lifecourse and Society (closed Sundays)

The Arts Corridor exhibition will have an extended run until August 29th

Exhibition officially opened by Galway City Arts Officer James Harrold with music and traditional skills demonstrations for all friends and family at The Institute for Lifecourse and Society, Corrib Village, Dangan on Saturday 16th July 2016, 2.00pm - 4.00pm


Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust gratefully acknowledges the support of the Arts Office, the Community Knowledge Initiative, the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, and Archives and Special Collections, James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway.

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust runs the west of Ireland’s leading Arts and Health programme as a means of improving the hospital experience for patients, visitors and staff. The Arts Trust believes access to the arts promotes well-being and enhances the hospital environment. In providing a multi-disciplinary programme of events and activities that integrate the arts with the health care setting, The Arts Trust promotes greater links between the hospital and the community. The programme has expanded since 2003 to include regular exhibitions, Poems for Patience in partnership with the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, and other links to the cultural life in Galway city including Galway Arts Festival and the Tulca Festival of Visual Art. The Arts Trust organises a programme of participatory arts workshops across Galway University Hospitals including visual artists in residence, creative writing., interactive events by drama practitioners, as well as music recitals. The dialysis arts programme is currently facilitated by Galway-based visual artist Marielle MacLeman

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust is a registered charity (CHY 17964)

For further information regarding the GUH arts programme contact:

Margaret Flannery, Arts Director

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust

University Hospital


+353 (0)91 544979                       Facebook: guharts

The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
Merlin Park University Hospital (MPUH)
University Hospital Galway (UHG)