Drawing by Sarah Carpenter

Bethlem Gallery has been appointed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to develop and deliver an Art Strategy for two new clinical facilities on the Trust’s Denmark Hill Campus – a centre for adults called New Douglas Bennett House and the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People. The art commissions will form part of the development of these buildings to transform how the hospital environment is experienced by service users, patients, and staff.   

The delivery of the strategy included seven new artwork commissions to be displayed across the two buildings, a selection of works from the Adamson Collection, and an open call for artwork made by local artists or artists with lived experience to be displayed in staff facing spaces. 

Co-produced Approach 

Throughout the commissioning and design process, stakeholders have been involved in a collaborative approach to ensure works are representative, accessible, and inclusive. This involved holding brief writing workshops with young people and artists affiliated with Bethlem Gallery, membership of art focus groups to oversee artist selection and design sign-off, and a diverse programme of artist-led workshops with service users, inpatients, and community groups to inform designs. 

“A very gentle and caring approach. Understanding about people with additional needs” – adult service user from Art Group 

Art Groups 

Project specific art groups brought together those with lived experience with clinical and operational staff to take a key role in appointing the artists for each commission. These groups would also provide valuable feedback and input for artwork development, detailed concept proposals and final design sign-off to ensure the hospital community felt connected to the artwork that they will encounter in their new environments. 

The Young People’s art group are a committee of young people aged 16-21 to advise specifically on the development of the art strategy for the Pears Maudsley Centre. The art group for New Douglas Bennett House comprises of service users, Trust staff and Bethlem Gallery staff. 

“It’s a good idea to have young people involved – they are the people who have experience in using the buildings. They know what it was like when they started and they are supported at the right pace. It helps them too as it gives them confidence and experience. We’ve just appointed the artists. I am looking forward to the launch event to see the pieces in real life!”Benjamin, member of the Young People’s Art Group  

Image from Sahra Hersi's Design Presentation
Image from Bethany Williams' Workshop

Collaborative Workshops

The gallery have enlisted seven acclaimed artists, all of whom have creatively collaborated with service users, their loved ones, and staff to co-produce their artwork and approach to each commission, putting people with lived experience at the centre of their practice and ensuring artworks are representative of the diverse communities the NHS organisation serves. 

A total of at least 25 workshops have included sessions with inpatient units such as the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and Lishman Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Snowfields Adolescent Unit at Maudsley, plus community groups such as the Maudsley school and Southwark CAMHS Forum 

“I loved it! Thank you so much Amber. I almost didn’t come due to my anxiety and I’m so glad I did. I loved the conversations and learning the techniques, it was inspiring! It really made a HUGE difference to my day” – Service User from Amber Roper workshop 

“Today’s workshop brought a burst of much needed focus and creativity to an otherwise very tense and unsettled ward.” – Trust staff from workshop 

Read more about the commissioned artists here.

Open Calls

In summer 2022 Bethlem Gallery hosted an Open Call for artworks made by artists with lived experience of mental health conditions or who lived in Croydon, Lewisham, Southwark or Lambeth. We were delighted to receive over 100 submissions, of which 34 were then selected by artists affiliated with Bethlem Gallery for staff areas across both sites. In summer 2023 we will work with staff who will be working in the building to curate the artworks, ensuring they have ownership of the artworks that are displayed in their areas. 

During the summer of 2023, an artist recruited through an open call will collaborate with children and young people across the Trust to create artwork for temporary exhibition in the display cabinets which will be found across the public areas of the building. The artworks on display will be refreshed regularly and will always be created by or in collaboration with children and young people accessing the Trust’s services.  

The changing nature of the artwork on display will allow us to explore issues relevant to young people at that moment in time, ensure different views and experiences are represented and that children and young people have ongoing opportunities to shape the artwork on display in the building. 

Submission by artist Dawn Kalu
The Adamson Collection

The Adamson Collection

The Art Strategy for New Douglas Bennett House also includes a presentation of 3D works from the Adamson Collection to be displayed in bespoke cabinets collaboratively designed by architects IBI and Bethlem Gallery, with direction from the Wellcome Collection and Adamson Collection Trustees. 

Evaluating the impact and process 

Bethlem Gallery have partnered with TIALT to develop and implement an evaluation framework throughout the commissioning process. This aims to highlight both the positive impact, challenges and learnings of arts interventions in a mental health environment and has allowed artists, Trust staff, service users and patients and the Bethlem Gallery team to reflect on the project journey from initial conversations and consultation to the workshop and design process and outcomes. You can read the full evaluation report from TIALT here.

Thank Yous

This project has been supported by a variety of generous partners and funders. We are very grateful to: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Maudsley Charity, the Baring Foundation, Museum of the Home, The Adamson Collection, 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning Centre 


The Art Strategy for  New Douglas Bennet House and Pears Maudsley Centre for Young People invited seven artists to create artwork for the two new buildings in collaboration with staff, service users and their loved ones. 

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