Creative Legacy continues to evolve and delight

Creative Legacy is on a roll. This award winning arts and health project with Liverpool Hospitals’ Palliative Care service is in its 4th year, and continues to both evolve and delight. Earlier this year we trained 12 new professional artists in palliative care and in the practice of legacy making with patients and families in palliative care. Funded by the Dry July Foundation on the back of funds raised for Liverpool Hospital Cancer Services, this program offers connection and joy through conversation and art making. It’s a one of a kind, and we’re all very proud of the work. 

We have 5 new artists on the ward this year, and several returning artists from the Reflected Legacy project. New artists on the ward this year needed to be local and to be able to adapt their own arts practice to the legacy making. The magic of this program, and it does feel like some kind of magic*, is when the legacy artists, nurses, doctors, allied staff, cleaners etc, work together with a patient and family, to provide the wholistic care that can be so meaningful and timely and full of human warmth. 

Here’s a glimpse of what they’ve been up to so far, and what is to come! We hope you enjoy it, and if you’d like to know more about how to bring this program to your service, or make a donation to enable the work to continue, please contact us at info@thegroundswellproject.com

Sarah O’Connor kick started the program this year, returning as a Reflected Legacy artist. Sarah is a mortician, funeral specialist and soon to graduate narrative therapist to name a few of her skills. She brings joy, ease and light into her pieces. 

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Sal Lavallee is a Ngarigo Buhlung (Ngarigo woman) from the Ngarigo and Yuin nations, and was our first new Creative Legacy artist this year. She is an Artist, a qualified Meditation Teacher and experienced workshop facilitator, and brought to the ward a contemporary style of Aboriginal mandala artwork inspired by what her by traditional Ngarigo and Yuin art that was taught to her by her uncle. 

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Grace Ludemann is an artist, illustrator and primary school teacher and is currently in residence on the ward. Grace uses narrative, celebration and evocative memory to create her legacy pieces. She was also featured recently on the Today show when they visited to make a story about the Creative Legacy project.

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Nina Katzmarski is a visual artist, designer and educator with a huge passion for community arts practice, collaboration and creative place making. Nina facilitated a workshop on the ward with patients, families, hospital staff and community members to come together and make legacy based paste-ups. Paste-ups are an accessible and temporary artwork that can be pasted anywhere. Patients pasted them on the balcony of the ward and in the rooms of their family members. Nina will be creating a series of paste-ups about palliative care in the lead up to Dying to Know Day, look out for them on council walls in Liverpool and on the great tank at Casula Powerhouse Art Centre.

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*some magic

In the days before a man dies on the ward, a man young and in the midst of his life, a husband, a father, a treasured employee, a friend, a neighbour, a brother, takes the opportunity to create a legacy artwork with a resident artist Sal Lavellee. They spoke together about the joy of family, marriage, nature, and gardening with a sense of peace and calm. There was joy, and laughter mixed in with the sadness, and the image of a life lived as a wedge tailed eagle. Sal went back to her studio to turn the conversation into a beautiful mandala like artwork, presenting it back to his son in the days following his death. They wanted to display it at the funeral. Sal had not met the son, but there was an immediate bond as she handed over the work and told him its’ story. They were both moved, as was I, by the meaning making, and the joy made in the final days of a life. 

Towards the end, there can be a lot of family coming and going, emotions rising, and an intensity to the care provided, and needed by all involved. It was in this state that I came across this mans’ wife and youngest child. They were intently beginning work on something with some photos and frames, and I could see it was a tense time for both. I could see the stress on the mothers’ face, and the fullness of life and love and sadness shared between them. I gently invited them to be a part of the arts workshop we were about to host in the room next to them. The mother, wife, woman was immediately interested; there was a safe space in which her daughter could express what she was wanting to share with her Dad, here and now. The relief was palpable. I introduced the daughter to the artist facilitating and she immediately started creating a collage from the photos she had. This young woman knew exactly what to do. Her Mum could then return to the room in which her husband was entering the final stage of his life, and attend to him, and the medical team, and all the people gathered. 

The afternoon went on like this, the young woman pouring her love and messages and shared times into her artwork, her uncle later joining her to see what she was up to. He, it turned out had something to express too, “I've not done this for years,” he said, and picked up some scissors and glue and papers to express what was in him. I took a photo, two loved ones making art, two more comforting each other on a bench just near them. Life, death, art, story, community, connection, medical care, all allowed to exist in the one place, the one time, at a time when it could matter most. 

Later that week, in the staff meeting, it was noted just how incredible it is, when a person, and their people, can be given such quality care. Not just the arts, not just the medical team, but everyone, the family too, working together to provide care for the whole person, not just the disease. 

Niki Read 

Ward without Walls

Creative Legacy 

Tara GildingComment