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Arts & Health Hub - Supporting Artists by Daniel Regan

The Arts & Health Hub is a non-profit organisation that supports artists interested in or working in the arts and health sector. Our organisation was born out of the need to connect with others who work in this specific field, focusing on how the arts can be used to explore both our own health and wellbeing and others’ through participatory arts projects. Many artists that we support come to this work because of their own lived experiences — living with health conditions, both mental and physical — that inform their interests and the work that they do.

The traditional art world can often feel ferociously competitive and impenetrable for artists working in arts and health, whose practice is less about major commercial gain but the impact that their work leaves on others. Artists can feel isolated and that their practice “doesn’t fit” with the art world — until they discover us, a network of over 700 artists who inspire and support one another. The ethos of the Hub is to connect, learn and share. We do that by having open and supportive conversations, events and projects that help push our own and others’ practices forwards in a caring way.

Prior to the pandemic we held monthly artist peer groups at an NHS site in north London, where artists could present current ideas, projects and challenges that they were facing in their work. As a group we would pool resources to help these artists with suggestions of how to develop projects, troubleshoot tricky situations and make contacts and connections.

One of the key difficulties that our artists have faced during the pandemic is not only a huge loss of income and opportunities but the isolation that comes from meeting others at events and through work. To combat this the Arts & Health Hub opened an online community using Slack, a digital team tool, that’s free to all of our members. It’s a place for artists to share what they are working on, resources and opportunities, and ask for support. That support may be professional, but also emotional — with check-ins on the ups and downs that we’ve all faced over the last year.

We have also looked at how we can support artists in more depth. In the summer of 2020 we surveyed members on the impact of the pandemic, including how their income and mental health had been affected. We also asked members what they would like to see from the sector, with a number of artists asking for:

  • Mental health support;

  • Supervision for artists working in demanding health & care settings;

  • 1-2-1 mentoring opportunities.

From November 2020 we have been delivering this through a three phase approach called the Support Hub, running as a pilot programme. Funded by Arts Council England the Support Hub is a timely project that brings to the surface the way in which artists in this sector may be at risk of secondary trauma, struggle to get into the sector, or find navigating work problematic because of their own mental health difficulties. Our hope is that our impact report produced at the end of this project will be a roadmap for artists, commissioners, trustees and others to understand the types of support artists might need and why it’s important to consider.

Our organisation started with just four people sat around a table that felt isolated from others but with a shared vision to support one another in the work that they do. Almost 6 years later we’ve become a national community that brings together like minded artists who have an openness and willingness to connect, learn and share with one another. Artists that discover us often say that they feel like they’ve “found their tribe” — and we hope that the way that we continue to do helps artists working in this field to feel less alone and part of a larger community that’s there to support them.

It’s free to join the Arts & Health Hub, you can register over on our website. This gives you access to our free online Slack community where you can connect with other artists and access all our resources. Signing up also gives you access to our monthly peer groups and events, plus other commissions and opportunities. On 22nd May we’ll be holding our first online conference ‘On Care’.

Daniel Regan

Executive Director

Arts & Health Hub