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Image above: Public artwork "Asia Mandala", by Steve Downey, located in the Day Surgery Unit of Broomfield Hospital.



Steve Downey has been deeply involved in developing the arts within healthcare settings since 1995.  The clear link between the the arts and health has been recognised since the time of the ancient Greeks.  This is confirmed by recent research, which shows that patients react favourably to suitably selected and placed artworks, which produce reductions in levels of stress and the need for anti-pain drugs, and through faster recuperation.  They also create a more inviting environment for staff and visitors and help in wayfinding.



Cover of 12-page booklet, published in 1998

I was appointed as Consultant Artist to this project, covering Colchester General, Essex County, Clacton, Harwich and Halstead Hospitals.  I successfully gained a Lottery Grant for £264,000 to commission over 100 new artworks for the new Constable Wing of Colchester Hospital.  Additional Millennium and Arts for All grants enabled new artworks to be commissioned for all the hospitals.  9 artists were employed to work with children in schools, leading to exhibitions and new artworks in the hospitals. 

Flyer for the Children's Ward Art Exhibition at Firstsite

An Art Gallery was established with an ongoing programme of exhibitions, that is still active to this day.  No NHS money allocated for patient care was used. Five exhibitions about the project were held at Firstsite at the Minories Gallery. My curated exhibition 'Healthcare Arts 2000' toured 8 Essex libraries during 2001.



I was involved in the setting up of the ground-breaking MA Arts in Health course at Colchester Institute and the Action Research Project involving Colchester Hospital, Paintings in Hospitals and Bromley-By-Bow Healthy Living Centre, which involved a team of artists working with staff, and with psychiatric and other patients within healthcare settings. 



Cover of the 12-page booklet enabling visitors to view a range of artworks at Broomfield Hospital

In 2000 I was appointed as the Arts Consultant at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex.  The initial goal was to commission a wide range of public artworks for the new East Wing.  This was completed in January 2002, by which time over 50 original paintings, sculptures, stained glass works, prints, mosaics, ceramics and textiles were commissioned from artists across the UK.  Under my guidance these artists were selected by hospital staff from over 2000 responses to a national advertisement. An Arts Trail was established with an accompanying booklet to guide people around the building.  A fund raising scheme was established and additional artworks were commissioned for other areas of the hospital and at the separate Maternity Hospital.  Again no NHS money as used, the majority coming from charitable sources and grants.  The Broomfield Gallery was established in one of the main corridors, with 2-monthy exhibitions by artists and arts groups.

My two artworks based on the "Tree of Life" on the staircase at Broomfield Hospital

When a new PFI-funded hospital was being planned on the Broomfield site, I was appointed as Consultant to the preferred bidder, Buygues UK Ltd. and their architects to come up with detailed proposals for integrating art within the landscape and interior design of this major scheme. Unfortunately, having just completed the plan successfully, there were government cuts and the new building programme was cancelled, and I left the project. A few years later the scheme was eventually approved and the building is now fully operational.  Most of my original proposals were implemented.

Steve Downey with 3 of his 6 artworks in the Broomfield Day Surgery Unit, with members of the Unit's staff

After my Arts Consultancy was over, I continued to work with the hospital as an artist, creating over 20 new artworks across the hospital.



Screen created by Anne Schwegmann Fielding, including objects created by patients, staff and relatives

In 2005 I was appointed as Arts Co-ordinator at Farleigh Hospice, Chelmsford, on a voluntary basis.  Macmillan nurses from this hospice had helped my wife when she was dying, so I raised over £14,000 for the hospice by taking part in charity challenges in China, India and Africa, and gladly gave my services to develop the arts in their new building.  I set up an Arts Working Group made up of staff and local artists who helped oversee an arts strategy to improve the environment of the building through art.  An art gallery in the corridors was set up with a series of 2-monthly exhibitions by artists, arts groups and projects selected from across the country.  Artists were encouraged to loan artworks free of charge to be installed in the hospital and these were rotated on a regular basis with new works.  A grant from Essex County Council enabled us to recruit 3 artists to conduct art workshops with staff, patients, relatives and school children, leading to the creation of new artworks.