Skip to main content

The Waiting Room: An art exhibition of health research

Dr Hannah Family from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology received funding to organise a public art exhibition in collaboration with local artists.

Dr Hannah Family (Lecturer, Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology) received £1,900 to organise an interactive public art exhibition inspired by research from across the departments of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, Psychology and Health.

The project overview

The Waiting Room was an exhibition produced in collaboration between artists sourced through the 44AD Art Gallery in Bath and researchers at the University of Bath. It was a cross-faculty collaboration involving Hannah, Dr Julie Turner-Cobb (Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology), Dr Ed Keogh (Reader, Department of Psychology), Professor Chris Eccleston (Department for Health), Dr Abby Tabor (Lecturer, Department for Health) and Dr Rachel Arnold (Lecturer, Department for Health).

The Associate Artists from the 44AD Gallery were invited to create works related to the themes of Attention Span, Distraction, Overload, Routine and Absorbed, themes that matched the researchers’ expertise. The artists spoke to the researchers about their research and about specific bits of data they found inspiring in order to inform their artworks.

Interacting with research

The exhibition was curated by Katie O’Brien and Annabelle Barton from 44AD and ran for 10 days in January 2016. Over 100 guests attended the launch event which brought together the researchers, artists and other local collaborators such as clinicians from the Royal United Hospital and the South West Academic Health Science Network as well as a local councillor.

The launch therefore brought interested parties together in a creative and engaging environment to discuss research and to develop ideas for future work. Over 450 people visited the exhibition in total. Articles were published by both the Bath Chronicle and The Psychologist.

Displayed alongside the artworks were descriptions from the research projects and published articles. There were also a number of brief experiential activities relating to the research that visitors could participate in as they walked around the gallery. For example, guests were invited to wear a heart monitor whilst undertaking an activity designed to induce stress, with the aim of noting how their heart rate changed as they did the activity. They were also invited to rate their mental workload at points around the exhibit using a scale developed by NASA that Hannah uses in her research. Blank brain templates (based on Hannah’s drawing of all the things a community pharmacist may be thinking about) were provided for visitors to fill in with the things that were on their minds. A video and stress test were provided by Julie and the Stress, Endocrine and Lifecourse Laboratory (STELLAR).

Dr Hannah Family said:

'We wanted the exhibition to be a space where artists and the researchers could meet with the public and talk about the interpretations and context of our research. For the researchers, this was a great opportunity to meet with and speak to several people who have taken part in our research, and share the findings of our research with the local community in an accessible and interactive format.'

Inspiring a new perspective on research

The exhibition allowed the display of a broad range of research into the experiences of stress and pain and when viewed as a whole this showed the strong links between the theoretical and applied research being carried out at the University. Researchers (including postgraduate researchers) and artists were present at times during the exhibition to engage with people about the art and science.

Learning about the processes and steps the artists had undergone in order to interpret the themes and develop their art-work enabled the researchers to view their research in a new light. The use of technology by the artists in their art-work also paralleled some ideas and approaches used by the researchers and this has led to new opportunities for researchers to work with artists on pieces of art (for example, through using eye-tracking equipment).

Dr Julie Turner-Cobb said:

'It was a real pleasure being a part of the exhibition and I hope it leads to further collaborative work in the future. It’s certainly made me think differently about my work and has generated all sorts of ideas for engagement with artists and the public.'

Feedback on the exhibition from visitors described it as:

'Positive, fun, intriguing and interactive.'

'A mid-afternoon brain de-frag.'

'Made me happy.'

'Life affirming.'

Contact us

If you want to discuss how you might engage publics in or with your research, the Public Engagement Unit can help.