A Doncaster woman is combining her love of art with the health service and using her talent to highlight issues in the care system

After doing research into how the arts and healthcare are linked to one another a Doncaster woman is hoping to further explore the connection and ask difficult questions about the care industry.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 7:00 am

It is not often that you find spontaneous and artistic people in the world of radiography but Sarah Smizz is the exception to that stereotype.

Not only is the young woman from Woodlands a dedicated health care professional but she also uses her spare time to create works of art that decode the often confusing inner workings of the NHS.

She said: “I’m interested in how the health care system both benefits and excludes people.

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Sarah Smizz is 32 from Woodlands.
Sarah Smizz is 32 from Woodlands.

“How do you define a good or bad experience.”

Sarah studied a Ph.D. that combined her two loves of art and radiotherapy.

This may seem odd as the subjects are quite far apart but she aims to bring together the worlds of art and science.

Sarah had a protest in her back garden during the lockdown and made signs connected to her project.

She said: “Even though half of the cancer diagnoses in the UK lead to a radiotherapy treatment there is still a stigma around it.

“It’s the science imagery around the practice that can make people think it’s cold and clinical.”

Sarah wanted to pursue radiotherapy because she saw the benefits she could have on the people she worked with.

She said: “I saw patients every single workday for the course of their treatment which meant I could really get to know them.

Sarah drew this map to show the arts funding differences across Yorkshire.

“I loved being able to slowly take that down and figure out what care they really needed.

“I could make their health journey better as part of my job.”

Sarah used her skill with art to connect with patients and give them a way of expressing their struggles and journeys.

Sarah wants to rebrand Doncaster as 'The Donx.'

One of Sarah’s artistic pursuits is live mapping where she takes discussions at conferences or meetings and turns them into visual works of art.

She uses a cartoonish style to share the story and narrative of the occasion.

“It can help people to communicate,” she said.

“A lot of people think visually and this style of art can help people understand the situation in a new light.

She has used this talent often during her time working with the NHS.

It was Sarah’s real-world experience with radiotherapy that inspired her current project which is being funded by Doncaster Creates.

The signs read 'Who is caring for the carers' and 'I don't feel safe.'

Sarah is using funding from the Birdsong Project to explore how care can be radical.

She will be looking into how healthcare systems came to be and how they have evolved whether it be for the better or for the worse.

Sarah says that there is a link between arts funding in a community and health.

She said: “I’m interested in finding out if Doncaster is at a disadvantage because it gets less investment in the arts than other towns and cities nearby.

“We have a population of around 300,000 but we are one at the bottom of the list when it comes to arts funding.

“Sheffield and Wakefield despite not being that much larger in terms of the population get so much more than we do.

“In 2018/19 Doncaster received £650,000 from ACE but Wakefield got over £2 million and Sheffield got £3.3 million.

“It doesn’t make sense that the arts here are underfunded to me.

“In 2018 the arts sector created 11 billion for the economy in the UK.”

As her first part of this project, Sarah made protest placard boards during the lockdown.

“Obviously I could not go out and protest in a town center due to the pandemic so I chose to do it in my back garden,” she said.

The signs she made had statements such as ‘Who is caring for the carers’ and ‘Let’s talk about the whiteness of the care economy’ painted across them.

After Sarah has done her research she will be displaying it in the form of posters and printed t-shirts.

“I want to look at networks of care in Doncaster,” she continued.

“Track how much funding areas in Doncaster have and then compare that to the arts scene there.

Sarah is passionate about changing the system by raising awareness and hopes to change the narrative around art and care in the community.

She said: “The NHS is underfunded and understaffed and that is only increasing as time goes by.

“There is a weird resilience that staff has to deal with within the health care industry.

“If you can’t deal with the stress then it’s your fault.

“Despite the known issues in the system.”

Sarah has lived in Doncaster for most of her life and wants more artistic expression to take place in the town.

She said: “Doncaster is an exciting place.

“We could do with a rebrand I think The Donx has a nice ring to it.

“Doncaster has great train links and low rent.

“But we have a lot of challenges to overcome from Brexit to Covid-19.”

Like many artists, during the pandemic, Sarah’s practices have had to change with more focus online.

She said: “My freelance live drawing business pretty much disappeared overnight.

“I was able to get access to the self-employed fund, it was not a lot but it was welcome.”

If you want to support Sarah and her project you can find out more on her website here.

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