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Healing Spaces

Healing Spaces is a therapeutic and creative arts programme devised by Wide Open in consultation with NHS Dumfries & Galloway, users and the architects as an integral element of the design of Midpark, the new acute mental health hospital for Dumfries & Galloway.

Donald Urquhart was commissioned as Lead Artist and Gerry Loose as Poet in Residence to work with patients, staff, carers and the wider community across the region through consultation and creative activities.

“It should be about nature and gardens and be like light at the end of a tunnel” Carer

A series of innovative and beautiful artworks and artist-designed spaces have resulted which sensitively reflect the very specific environment of an acute mental health hospital and gardens. Each element, from the carefully designed family rooms, a project working with young carers to the installations linking the building to the wider natural environment have been realized in order to create a positive and welcoming atmosphere on arrival, reduce anxiety for users and visitors, offer positive distraction and support communication.

Jane McArthur conceived and commissioned a programme of integrated, therapeutic and creative works for this flagship mental health building that it is anticipated will have a lasting legacy for the permanent enhancement of the internal and external spaces for patients, visitors and staff. Healing Spaces also extended creative engagement into the wider community, encouraging cross-fertilization of activity, knowledge and stigma reduction concerning attitudes to mental health.

“ I am so proud to have been part of the Healing Spaces project. I feel that I have been part of making history and I will be able to tell my grandchildren about this”.
Service User, member of the Healing Spaces Working Group and in-patient during the development phase of Healing Spaces.

Specific projects have incorporated patients’ work such as the plant cyanotypes and the cherry tree cubes. Wide Open is now working with Friends of Midpark to support the continued development of creative activity and integrated works in the wards and gardens.

Evaluation has demonstrated that Healing Spaces has resulted in a healthcare building with a strong creative culture where the arts are firmly embedded into the daily life of patients and staff, supporting arrival, departure, conversation and the onward journey to recovery. Works offer imagery and have created spaces for positive contemplation, inspiration, family time, changes of thought, memory work and quiet dreaming.

Healing Space has been supported by a dedicated Working Group comprising staff, carers and ex-patients and has been generously funded NHS Dumfries & Galloway, the Holywood Trust, the Crichton Foundation, the Landfill Communities Fund, NHS Active Nation, Hugh Fraser Foundation and the Russell Trust.


Cherry Tree cubes, Donald Urquhart and Will Levi Marshall

Moving Tree Shadow, Donald Urquhart and Nic Newton

Cyanotype plants, patients and service users in the community with Alexander Hamilton. Text by Gerry Loose

Craft work installation

Family room, Young Carers with Donald Urquhart

Orchard, Gerry Loose and Donald Urquhart

Crichton Gardens, Donald Urquhart