play becomes celebration; celebration becomes work; work becomes play

“What is often not commonly understood is how evolved socially-engaged (typically participatory) arts practice has become, and relatedly, how much this differs from many people’s conception and experience of what ‘the arts’ is.” Active Ingredients, The Aesop planning and evaluation model for Arts with a Social Purpose 2018

Inspired by the Bauhaus ART IS LIFE philosophy and working around the ideas projected by Johannes Itten from his 1919 lecture titled “play becomes  celebration; celebration becomes work; work becomes play.” We created a series of projects that fulfilled his philosophy.

“Our play should become work; our work, a celebration; and our celebration, play. I regard this as the supreme excellence of the human tasks”. Johannes Itten




Demystifying arts engagement with staff by showing rather than explaining the role of the artist in engagement. It takes time to develop trust with busy harassed staff. Start with small groups and work on the ripple effect this generates by word of mouth.


Part of building trust is defining a safe place to work together – this is both a physical and psychological idea of space. Initially defining a neutral space where hierarchies are put aside, such as the canteen, then moving onto the wards and into dayrooms once trust is established.


Project collaborations utilizing creative staff members potential. Find the individuals who have time on their hands (there are none in the NHS but some have little spaces – down time, quiet times where they can talk). Then recognising and encouraging latent creativity, identifying key creative or dynamic staff, identifying cultural dynamos. Explain the role of artist as critical thinker to management.


Allow staff to define their own culture. Develop projects around staff interests harnessing enthusiasm and mentoring creative individuals. Give the staff something they need first then push more experimental projects forward built on trust developed. Give away creative direction but not creative control.


Building networks. Online and in real life. Find partners in the community who want to help and have the will, manpower or funding This is especially important when staff are not willing to engage. Bring people together, facilitate future projects. Encourage collaborations.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s