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Q&A with artist Kate Keara Pelen

How do you convey your messages through your work?

I aim to offer a new perspective and awaken curiosity in those who engage with what I produce. For me an artwork can evoke any number of feelings and act as a stimulus – a conversation starter.

What do you think of the badges themselves?

It’s exciting to have the opportunity to work with this special collection. Reading each name and year of award is particularly fascinating. Each one represents a career, a life.

Tell us about the audio element of the piece.

My intention was to incorporate a sort of community soundtrack, to really bring the badges to life. Through interviews with a broad range of nurses and others, we explored the ideas and terminology used in Florence Nightingale’s time, compared with the language of the nursing and midwifery code which shapes the values of nurses today, such as the six Cs of nursing: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. I was also told some fascinating stories about badges lost, found, damaged during the war and other wonderful anecdotes. The interviews were a total privilege to conduct; I was struck by the idiosyncratic personalities and diverse attitudes of the participants. Never a dull moment!

What did this project mean to you?

It was a privilege to be selected. I enjoy working at the fruitful intersection of arts and wellbeing, and of course nursing is often said to be an ‘art’. Florence Nightingale was an inspiration to many - not just to nurses - and I wanted to create a piece that will hold meaning and value for as many people as possible, within the Faculty and beyond.

I enjoyed some very interesting conversations with members of the Nightingale Fellowship about the history of Florence Nightingale and her legacy and got the chance to delve into some old Fellowship journals, which offered many insights into the evolving attitudes within the nursing profession. I was also pleased to have the chance to strike up an interesting dialogue with the Florence Nightingale Museum.

Find out more about Kate's work.

March 2017