• Date awarded: April 2023
  • Awarded value: £740
  • Fund: St Andrews Renal Unit & League of Friends
  • Location: St Andrews Community Hospital
Mandala art circles and patterns created during the project held in St Andrews Community Hospital.

When an innovative art project based at the St Andrews Community Hospital in St Andrews, was at risk in the final stages of planning due to a shortfall in funding, Fife Health Charity stepped in and filled the gap, ensuring the project could go ahead.

The aim of the project was for participants to create their own mandala, a circular piece of art that takes its name from the word for circle in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. Led by professional artists, Fife-based Judith Heald, and Lisa Gribbon from Aberdeen, the 10-day collaborative project was devised to encourage in-patients, day patients, such as those receiving renal dialysis, visitors and hospital staff to take part, with each participant’s artwork contributing to the creation of a large scale piece of art to be displayed in a main corridor within the hospital.

In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the mandala has great symbolic significance and is seen as a unique form without beginning or end, in the same way the universe is believed to have no end. Used by religious practitioners to focus the mind and aid mediation, a traditional mandala is made up of a circle with a centre point within a square.  Starting at the centre point and working onwards, the mandala would be filled with geometric or organic patterns in different colour. 

The St Andrews Community Hospital project focused on the creative, artistic relaxing and calming aspect of creating a mandala.  A temporary art room was set up in the hospital and each participant was given a birch wooden panel to work on. Using a simple mandala template provided by the project leaders, the participants were able to access techniques and materials to work that that best suited their physical situation and ability. 

Seeing themselves as artist facilitators, Judith and Lisa wanted the project to be inclusive and collaborative, encouraging the participants to explore and express their artistic creations regardless of ability or level of confidence.

The Difference Our Funding is Making

Documented evidence shows that art related activities can improve the mood and welling of hospital patients and staff. Creative projects such as making mandalas within a therapeutic environment leads to more social interaction between staff and patient, as it provides a discussion point. Arts activities have also been found to help reveal a patient's personality, helping staff to gain insight and get to know them better.

Originally due to take place in early 2020 but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, by the time the project could be rescheduled, increases in the price of art materials meant that the original budget was insufficient to cover the new costs. Recognising the benefits of hands-on projects within hospital settings, Fife Health Charity was delighted to provide the missing funding to ensure the project could go ahead.

“It has been lovely to see the benefits that patients, staff and visitors gained from taking part in the project,” reports Fife Health Charity’s art co-ordinator, Gillian Parsons, who visited the art room at St Andrews Community Hospital while the project was running.

“Working within the template of the circle, you can draw patterns and create almost anything you like based on the fact that it’s circular with no beginning and no end. It's a very meditative process. I could see the people taking part coming to life in many ways, especially through getting the chance to socialise and tell their stories.”