Home Artwork Artwork created by mental health patients in Northampton celebrated by national charity

Artwork created by mental health patients in Northampton celebrated by national charity


A woman being treated for a brain injury says her work, which won a rave award from a national arts awards program, has helped give her days “purpose and fun”.

Neelam Baldhe, who has been a patient in the neuropsychiatry ward at St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton since last year, has started taking part in art sessions to pass the time in hospital.

Not only did the 38-year-old start to enjoy the hobby, but she chose to enter the Koestler Arts competition, a charity that aims to help prisoners, keep patients and inmates safe by supporting their artistic ambitions.

St Andrew’s Healthcare patient Neelam Baldhe created this illustration of rice and received praise for it

Neelam’s work is one of over 95 entries in St Andrew’s Koestler, which also included original songs, covers, sculpture, painting, sewing, printmaking, media, drawing , crafts and poetry.

A total of 42 patients won a prize and 19 submissions were shortlisted to participate in the exhibition at the London Southbank Center as part of the Koestler exhibition. This year, the exhibition was curated by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese contemporary artist, documentary filmmaker and activist.

The brightly colored rice image of a Neelam elephant was inspired by Koestler’s 2022 theme: “Taste” and also his love for huge wild animals.

Neelam remembered how her mother used food coloring to color rice in recipes when she was growing up and she used the same approach using colored ink and white vinegar to create her artwork. The piece took several months to complete.

Neelam said: “The art sessions I attend are so much fun and they really help pass the time in the hospital. I have found that knowing I have an art class gives me purpose and fun in my day.

“I was thrilled to receive a Commended award, it makes me feel like a famous artist and that my works are worth it.”

In addition to artwork, Neelam also participates in pottery classes and adult education sessions.

Before falling ill, Neelam was a highly trained pharmacist with a family. But it was when Neelam started having regular headaches that doctors began to investigate. A CT scan showed she had a brain tumor and needed urgent surgery.

Unfortunately, the injury prevented Neelam’s body from maintaining his blood sodium levels. Staff at St Andrew’s Healthcare must therefore carefully monitor their food and liquid intake around the clock, to ensure that their levels remain safe.

Alison Williams, Visual Arts Technical Instructor for the Arts at St Andrew’s Healthcare, said: “Neelam has been attending art sessions for over two years, creating all kinds of beautiful pieces and recently won an AQA award for a mosaic project.

“But this collage is by far the most colorful work she has created and her first time at Koestler, so we are very proud of her.

“Neelam’s enthusiasm and passion for engaging in art has improved over time and she rarely misses her weekly art studio sessions. The recognition of his works has given him and many other patients a real boost of confidence and self-esteem; it’s the highlight of my year presenting the awards and certificates to the people who have worked so hard on their creative projects.