a documentary film series and exhibition

‘What’s on your Walls?’

explores people’s personal relationship with art.


What's On Your Walls? 



Art plays a huge part in all our lives, whether or not we are aware of it. Art is in film, in writing, in the buildings around us, and even in digital marketing. Art enables us to glimpse the world as it is seen through someone else’s eyes. It broadens our minds and affects the way we approach new situations and new people.

Art can range from a pleasing image on your wall or the cause of a life changing revelation, to a medium through which mentally disabled children can communicate their thoughts; aiding their development both personally and socially. When applied in the right way, art can be a strong catalyst for social change and have an impact on wellbeing.

Partnering with Paintings in Hospitals, the project will talk to people from all over the country, different social and ethnic groups and people who may not have wall space to personalise.

This series of films asks people to talk about their favourite picture and the things they have chosen to put on their walls. It talks to people who may not have walls and to people in hospital, prisons or other institutions.



    “I look at my pictures and I smile every time I see them…

    they give me a nice feeling in my heart”




The Project

What’s On Your Walls?’ questions the benefits of art on personal wellbeing by engaging people from diverse backgrounds, ages and ethnic groups, including people in places where they do not have their own walls-hospitals, prisons, homeless- in a discussion about what they put on the wall. We are creating a documentary consisting of a series of three-minute films asking people what they have put up on their walls, why and how it affects them. So far this ranges from original art work to photos of the pet dog. Three themes have already emerged: what we put on our walls helps create an identity or a sense of belonging; it connects us to our past and lets us re-live our memories and it creates a dreamscape for our imagination.



  “It's an extension of your personality what you put

   on your walls...and it wouldn’t be home” – Clare




Scope of the Project

The project will explore the impact that displaying art has on people’s wellbeing and sense of identity; thereby contributing to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that having access to artworks can dramatically improve mental health and wellbeing. By making simple, intimate documentary portraits of people in their homes talking about the art on their walls, we hope to increase the sense that art is for everyone and all conversation about art is legitimate, thereby breaking down barriers that may exist between the academic, arts professionals, artists and everyone else.


What the Project consists of

We will organise an exhibition of 30-40 short films and of the participants’ favourite pieces at the Menier gallery managed by Paintings in Hospitals, who frequently hold exhibitions relating to the arts and wellbeing. The exhibition will be an opportunity for us to reach out to the press and to policy makers, which will bring exposure and encourage broader research into the importance of art for wellbeing and personal identity. In addition, we will create an interactive website, onto which individuals will be able to upload their own short film answering the question what’s on your walls? in order to expand the engagement reach of the debate. Depending on the amount of funding we receive, we hope to take the films, and where possible the exhibition, to different venues including hostels, hospitals, residents’ associations and art fairs



  “Art is music, art is literature, art is anything to which there is

   meaning, intentional or unintentional. It’s who you are and

   were and it’s all cumulative”




Participants will be asked how they chose the items on their walls, the meaning and significance of those items, and how they would feel if they could not have walls to put things on. We will include individuals of all ages, ethnicities, physical and mental abilities, and economic circumstances from around the UK. In making our documentary, we will take into account not only the walls of people’s homes but also the impact on people who do not have walls to call their own, whether they are in hospital, in prison, or are homeless, and will ask these individuals what they used to have or would like to have on their walls. It is important to consider the perspectives of people who cannot control the environment around them as this may shed light on specific aspects of identity and wellbeing. Our partner, Paintings in Hospitals will enable us to reach people in both short and long term care, special day centre, hospices, and patients being cared for at home, to hear how art affects them. Philip Emery, our treasurer, runs Changing Tunes, an organisation which brings music into prisons, and has agreed to provide us access to present and former prisoners. We have also partnered with Cardboard Citizens, which works with homeless people, so that we can talk to individuals about how they are affected by not having walls on which to place art.



The documentary will also include interviews with experts who are studying or have studied the effects of art on the brain, including Semir Zekir and Dr Rosalia Staricoff.

What happens in our brains when we view art is more than just good for your health - and can have a big impact on the nation's happiness” – Professor Zeki

Paintings in Hospitals has done research into the impact of the visual arts on medical health, age and autism, and are building on this research together with FAN as part of our project to explore the benefits of art on wellbeing.

The arts are and should be recognised as integral to health and health services” Department of Health and Arts Council"


Outcomes and Significance

Our project will make a meaningful contribution to debate and to future qualitative research about the value of art: our documentary and the archive of short films uploaded to our website by participants will add a wealth of material to the evidence base. Due to its person-centric nature, our interview material will have many flexible uses that will be invaluable to future researchers. Our project is vital to bringing the focus of the debate about the value of art back onto individual experiences in an engaging way.  From the first interviews, which asked participants about the selecting criteria for artworks on their walls, three themes have already emerged: we animate our walls with visual art to create an identity or a sense of belonging, to connect us to our past and to let us re-live our memories, or to create a dreamscape which feeds our imagination. What's on our walls is, quite simply, who we are but how much does it matter being able to express ourselves this way or to live within walls exhibiting someone else's choices? 


Filmed by Hazel Chandler and Andrew Darke