Installation view, Art & Value, Bethlem Gallery, 2019. Photo Ben McDade.

The contribution that the arts can make to hospital and clinical environments has been well documented, most recently through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing report in 2017. One of the key findings of the report is as follows: 

The arts and culture – including architecture, design, and heritage – enrich environments, making them beneficial to our health and wellbeing.

Bethlem Gallery has received generous funding from Maudsley Charity to develop and deliver an Art Strategy for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The Art Strategy will implement an arts programme across all Trust sites, to include site specific commissions and artist residencies underpinned by participation and engagement with service users, staff and stakeholders. The Art Strategy will also see the development of the new Peter Sowerby Collection owned and managed by Bethlem Gallery, plus the development and cataloguing of the Trust art collection and a digital platform.

The development of the Art Strategy follows the successful collaborative approach for two new builds New Douglas Bennett House and Pears Maudsley Centre. This strategy was developed in co-production with stakeholders and through creative responses to the physical environment as well as clinical and functional contexts. The creation of these two sites was a significant step forward in the Trust’s vision to develop a high quality mental health estate. 

‘The perception of the hospital as unaesthetic, and as treating only the body, has commonly underpinned those aspects of humanistic interior design that treat the soul and ‘sensory wellbeing’, such as nature and the arts’.

This body of work followed three key principles: Practical, Ethical and Aesthetic. The new Art Strategy will expand on these principles, ensuring that an arts programme can be strategically integrated into the Trust. 

The Art Strategy will aim to: 

  • Contribute to a therapeutic environment and enhance the hospital experience providing welcoming, thought provoking and sometimes surprising experiences for service users, their loved ones, and staff. 

  • Involve stakeholders through creative consultation and in the creation of artworks and reflect the diversity of patients and staff and the Trust’s Equality Policy throughout the commissioning process. 

  • Reinforce the Trust’s identity and sense of place contributing to the permeability of the hospital and connectivity to the local area. 
Mark Titchner, Some questions about us, 2019. Photo Daniel Regan

The environment is crucial to how we live and recover with art and design playing an integral part… Hospital environments are needed which encourage patients to feel welcome, looked after and cared for and in which staff feel valued.

Installation view, An Ecology of Mind, Bethlem Gallery, 2022. Photo Ben McDade.

In order to oversee the successful implementation of the Art Strategy, Bethlem Gallery have recruited an Art Strategy Manager. The role aligns with the Gallery’s vision and mission, enabling us to work with service users, carers and staff across the Trust on newly commissioned  artworks and new displays, and provide opportunities for creative engagement for stakeholders. It will embed the gallery’s work further into the Trust, enabling us to be better connected, make better use of our resources, and have more impact.  

Watch this space to hear the latest updates and to find out how you can get involved! 

If you’d like to know more about the Art Strategy, please email


I want artwork in my ward – can you help? 

We may be able to, even if giving advice to get you started. We are putting together a guidelines document on curating and displaying service user/clinical led artwork in order to support Trust staff improving their ward environment. Additionally, if your ward has available budget that you would like to allocate to artwork, we can develop and deliver a project tailored to the environment, whether that be a commission, artist residency or purchasing artworks. 

Is there funding available for artwork? 

We have a small budget within the Art Strategy for new artworks and commissions. There may also be fundraising opportunities for site specific projects.  

Our Peter Sowerby Collection, generously funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, is an allocated fund to bring in new and exciting works over two years which can be displayed in hospital buildings and loaned to partner organisations. 

We are working with SLaM and stakeholders to ensure we have a strategy to enable us to allocate resources fairly (please see next question). 

How will priority areas be decided? 

We will work closely with the Capital Development Team within the Trust to programme projects which align with Trust priorities including new builds and refurbishments. We will also consult with stakeholders including staff, service-users, patient groups and carers to understand the priority areas for the hospital community. 

Areas for new artwork will be programmed into a timeframe that aligns with resources, partnerships and budget capacities to ensure we deliver the most effective approach, and which compliments a programme of participation and engagement. 

What is the timeline for the art strategy? 

Following extensive consultation, focus groups and discussions with stakeholders and the hospital community, the Art Strategy will encompass a 3-year action plan to align with our funding from Maudsley Charity. This 3-year plan will aim to set up a successful, impactful arts programme that can remain ongoing and sustainable for the years to come. 

How can I get involved? 

Whether you are a member of staff, carer, service-user or have lived experience of mental health services, we would love to hear from you! It’s important that the Art Strategy is developed through co-production with our stakeholders, in order to deliver an arts programme that is representative, inclusive and accessible to all. 

You can contact us through social media via our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts or email  


If you are an arts organisation who would like to partner with us or hear more about the Art Strategy, please contact  

Bethlem Gallery is a registered charity. By donating to us directly you will make a positive impact on our artists, our artist programme and our wider community. If you’d like to learn more about supporting what we do, see our Support Us page here.


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