LAHF board member Viv Reiss is Head of Art at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
What is your current role and what projects are you working on at the moment?
I work with artists and creative practitioners on site responsive art commissions and creative engagement programmes. I’ve been working at Great Ormond Street Hospital for just under three years as joint Head of Art where I lead the commissioning programme working with colleagues across the Trust. This involves commissioning a collection of artworks in relation to new clinical buildings, most recently the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children, and also the wider redevelopment programme. As an associate of Bethlem Gallery I’m developing an art strategy for two new buildings at the Maudsley Hospital working with Maudsley Charity and architects at IBI Group. And I’ve recently completed an art programme at the Sleep Disorders Centre at Guy’s Hospital which involved an artist residency and included a participatory project as well as curating a display of artwork from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity with staff and patients at the centre.
What brought you to this role?
As well as working in arts organisations on learning and participatory projects and community-based initiatives, I also work on public art programmes in different settings including health environments and as part of regeneration projects. Through my work I explore ways that art can contribute to creating better places, enhancing the built environment and wider public realm and engaging people in the process. I’m especially interested in different approaches to ‘humanise’ clinical environments – working with artists, designers and architects to create places that support wellbeing and recovery in holistic ways.
What do you love most about your work?
I enjoy introducing artists to new contexts, people and places, to inspire site responsive artworks. I also really value working on a range of projects often with multidisciplinary teams, which means I’m always learning things and discovering new ways of working.
What is your favourite piece of art or culture?
I spent some time at St Thomas’ Hospital where my daughter was a patient, this was when I first really appreciated the Naum Gabo sculpture ‘Revolving Torsion’. Sitting in the garden and watching the fountain with the Thames in the background was a joy. Later when I worked at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity I came to find out more about the sculpture, which is on long loan from the Tate, and also other artworks in this fantastic collection.
Where do you find inspiration?
I recently took part in a field trip looking at architecture and visiting hospitals in the Netherlands with a team of colleagues from GOSH. Meeting other health, architect and design professionals really made me think about the notion of a healing environment and the contribution of art.
Conversations with artists and creative practitioners and immersing myself in different kinds of cultural projects are part of what makes me who I am. And it’s always good to find thinking space and instead of looking at my phone looking out of the window while travelling to work on the bus or on train journeys means I notice and appreciate everyday life.
How do you relax?
I love swimming, being in the water makes me feel calm. I find walking therapeutic and it’s a great way to catch up with friends, family and colleagues as well as exploring the city and new places. I’m lucky to have three parks close to where I live, green space is very important to me as I grew up in the countryside and experienced the landscape and seasons changing in a visceral way.
What makes you smile?
One of the art commissions for the new research centre at GOSH is a kinetic sculpture by Random International ‘Kinds of Life’. It is inspired by the Albert Lamorisse’s film ‘The Red Balloon’ and a red orb floats in the main atrium space connecting all the users of the building. As I walk around the building and catch glimpses of the orb as it moves within the space, and sometimes responds to me moving to where I’m standing, it makes me smile!