The ‘Stepping Stones’ Arts in Health Project (2020 - 2023)
The Stepping Stones Arts in Health Project at The Alders Unit (previously known as St. Louise’s Unit) began back in 2020 as a means of preparing for the relocation of this service from CHI at Crumlin to CHI at Tallaght.
Oct. 3, 2023
Artist of the 'Stepping Stones' Project: Emma Finucane
Emma Finucane, Claire Flahavan and Breege Maxwell
Artist Emma Finucane and Senior Art Therapist Claire Flahavan
(Right to left): Fiona Smith from CHI Arts in Health, Laura Saunders, Artist Emma Finucane, Senior Art Therapist Claire Flahavan and Mary Grehan from CHI Arts in Health
The Alders Unit provides assessment and therapy services to young people who have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault. The team wanted to mark the transition to a new ‘home’ in Tallaght in a special way and in particular, they wanted the young people who attend the service to feel part of these changes. The hope for the project was to create pieces of original artwork for the new building, particularly the waiting areas.
Developing the project in the context of COVID-19
The project was developed in collaboration with the CHI Arts in Health team and artist Emma Finucane, co-ordinated by art therapist Claire Flahavan from The Alders Unit. The initial plan was to offer a series of print-making workshops for young people attending the service, but this had to go on hold due to the interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project focus shifted temporarily at that time, to create a ‘virtual creative space’ for staff members in the Unit, who were largely working remotely due to restrictions. Staff made artwork to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on their clinical work and wider lives. A set of framed prints from this project has now been installed in the public corridors throughout the new Unit.
An online project for teenagers
In October 2020 (at a time of ongoing COVID-related restrictions), artist Emma Finucane and art therapist Claire Flahavan co-facilitated an online group for teenage service-users as part of the project. The sessions were treated as a ‘research process’, hearing from the group about what felt important to them, in terms of creating welcoming waiting spaces in the new building at CHI at Tallaght. The group looked at artworks in other hospital settings, and used these to think about the kind of imagery that might be suitable for The Alders. Emma recorded the thoughts and ideas that emerged, and created a research magazine to capture this process.
Summer workshops at IMMA (2021)
In July 2021 when restrictions lifted, there was finally an opportunity to bring a group of young people together in person to make art! Workshops were held with Emma on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. These were structured around print-making and collage, and built on the ideas generated within the online research process. The group worked around the theme of botanical prints and their beautiful images have now been installed in the waiting areas at Tallaght. Emma also designed a large digital collage inspired by her discussions with teenage service-users and staff. This incorporates ideas from the original research group about creating an artwork that would give a sense of ‘looking out a window into an imaginary world’, while sitting in the waiting area.
The Irish poet Padraig O’Tuama speaks often about the importance of art, as a means of honouring and celebrating ‘fragile moments that are worth paying attention to’. The Stepping Stones project took place across the COVID pandemic, at a time when we were all made aware of the fragility of life, but reconnected too with the green spaces around us. This is very much reflected in the artwork that emerged in the project.
Staff at the Alders Unit would like to acknowledge the young people who participated in the project, for sharing their thoughts, imaginative ideas and artwork. Many thanks also to Emma Finucane (artist) and to Mary Grehan, Fiona Smith and Orla Butler (CHI Arts in Heath team) for their time, input and energy.
The Stepping Stones project was made possible through generous funding from the Children’s Health Foundation and an external donor.