Our History


Waterford Healing Arts Trust is established following the unveiling of the first public art commission in an acute hospital context in Ireland: Quintess-ometry by Remco de Fouw. The work was commissioned by an arts committee drawn together by Dr Abdul Bulbulia and Mary Baxter, which realised Dr Bulbulia’s pioneering idea of enhancing the hospital environment through the use of the visual arts. This committee became the first Waterford Healing Arts Trust Committee.


Aifric Gray is appointed Artist in Residence for a six-month pilot project; Aifric subsequently became WHAT’s first Arts Co-ordinator.
Photo shows Aifric Gray with Dr Abdul Bulbulia, founder of Waterford Healing Arts Trust, at the 25th Anniversary of WHAT in 2018.


The Healing Garden is initiated by WHAT on the hospital grounds to provide an outdoor space for peace and solace. Designed by artists Saturio Alonso and Aifric Gray, the Healing Garden was realised through a partnership with Waterford City Council Arts Office, and the Department of Social Welfare through the Student Summer Employment Scheme, with the involvement of Roadstone of Kilmacow, Louis Power, Bausch and Lomb, Feelystone, IMPACT, The Medical Centre and The Hospital Saturday Fund.


The WHAT Healing Sounds music programme begins, bringing live music to the hospital foyer and the bedside of patients at Waterford Regional Hospital (now UHW), and now into other healthcare settings.


The UHW Tapestry Group began meeting in WHAT on a weekly basis to produce beautiful tapestries to document the history and culture of Waterford, to be displayed in UHW and other healthcare settings for the benefit of patients. The group continued meeting until the onset of COVID in 2020.


The Healing Garden was officially opened by Mary McAleese, President of Ireland. To this day, it is a highly valued space by staff from all over the hospital.


Inside Out, an annual group exhibition of art by HSE staff in Waterford began, continuing for 10 years. It was subsequently replaced by the Staff Art Wall initiative.


The Art Kart begins. This brightly coloured refurbished medicine trolley has become a regular and welcome sight in the corridors of the hospital, bringing art materials to patients on the Paediatric Ward and Renal Dialysis Unit.


The WHAT Arts Programme in Renal Dialysis begins, with artist Boyer Phelan engaging patients in art making, funded by the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund.


WHAT opens Ireland’s first dedicated Centre for Arts and Health in the grounds of Waterford Regional Hospital (now University Hospital Waterford)


Participatory Arts Practice in Healthcare Contexts: Guidelines for Good Practice is published. Commissioned by WHAT and HSE South (Cork) Arts and Health programme, with financial support from the Arts Council, these guidelines continue to be used by arts and health practitioners around the world.


Open Studio workshop begins. This weekly visual art groups provides a creative and social outlet for people living in the community who may be isolated due to ill health or disability.


artsandhealth.ie is launched by WHAT in partnership with Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts, and commissioned and funded by the Arts Council.


The Staff Art Wall begins at UHW. Managed by WHAT, this initiative celebrates the creativity of staff working at UHW by providing an opportunity to display their work at the hospital.


Iontas Arts & Mental Health programme begins. The Irish word for ‘wonder’ or ‘surprise’, Iontas brings arts experiences, such as music, visual art, creative writing, movement and drama to people living with mental health issues, to support their wellbeing and recovery. A partnership with Waterford Wexford Mental Health Services, Iontas is currently delivered by eight artists in the Department of Psychiatry and across seven community settings. Iontas today has evolved from a series of music and visual art experiences delivered by WHAT in mental health settings since the mid-2000s


WHAT celebrates its 25th Anniversary with the first public performance of Hospital Voices, a WHAT commissioned choral work, by Artists in Residence composer Eric Sweeney and poet Edward Denniston

2020 (March)

COVID 19 arrives and WHAT hands over its Centre for Arts & Health to UHW for use by the hospital’s team of allied health professionals and moves all our work online.

Our Story

2020 (June)

Checking In takes place online in June, replacing our annual Arts and Health: Check Up Check In in-person national arts and health event. Checking In is the first national arts and health event to take place online since the onset of COVID and proves vital in bringing the arts and health sector together to build solidarity, restore confidence and share the myriad new methods of working necessitated by the pandemic lockdown.


Surviving or Thriving? takes place. A partnership between WHAT and the Arts Council, this online series of panel discussions, workshops, podcasts and resources supported the wellbeing of arts professionals in Ireland, with particular relevance to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. Open to all working in the arts in Ireland, Surviving or Thriving? aimed to strengthen resilience, restore confidence and promote connectedness across the arts sector.

Our Story


Realta is formed and Waterford Healing Arts Trust re-brands to Waterford Healing Arts