Case Study: cARTrefu-Creating-artists-in-residents

Authors(s), Creator(s) and Contributors: Kelly Barr, Sarah Lord, Katherine Algar-Skaife, Gill Windle, Angela Rogers

Publication Date: 03/03/2021

Categories: Case Studies

Partner(s): Bangor University and Dementia Services Development Centre Wales, Centre for Age

Funder(s): Arts Council of Wales, The Baring Foundation


cARTrefu means home. cARTrefu improves access to creative activities for older residents in care homes across Wales and has a statistically significant impact on wellbeing, as well as an improvement in motor skills, staff and artists attitudes towards those living with dementia. cARTrefu is the largest project of its kind in Europe and is recognised as an example of best practice in a creative, relationship-centred care approach. Age Cymru are continuing to use cARTrefu to ensure that access to creativity is embedded in every care home in Wales.

The Challenge

According to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 27, everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of their community. This doesn’t stop when you live in a care home. As of March 2017, there were 22,217 older adults in Wales living in a care home. It is estimated that 80% of people living in a care home have dementia; and less than half of relatives of care home residents with dementia who were surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Society replied that their relative was being offered opportunities for activities (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013). cARTrefu aims to improve access to creative activities for older residents in care homes across Wales.

The Approach

cARTrefu recruited 29 professional artists across Wales, through a public callout and selected through a workshop and interview process, by a panel of experts.

Based on the John Killick mentoring model, these artists are supported by 7 experienced mentors throughout the project.

Artists deliver weekly participatory creative sessions with residents, staff and family members, over 8 - 12 weeks, inspiring and re-igniting a passion for creativity.

Artists: • Phase 1: 17 artists and 4 mentors • Phase 2: 12 artists and 3 mentors • Phase 3: 16 artists
Timeline: • Phase 1: 2015 – 2017 • Phase 2: 2017 – 2019 • Phase 3: September 2019 – end of August 2021

The Impact

Working with Bangor University and the Dementia Services Development Centre Wales, qualitative and quantitative methods were used to evaluate the project.

Phase 1:

Residents – Smiley Faces Scale
Care home staff – cARTrefu Questionnaire & Approaches to Dementia Questionnaire Artists – cARTrefu Artist Questionnaire, Approaches to Dementia Questionnaire, Reflective Journal and Focus Group.

Costs -

Phase 1: £350,000 and Phase 2: £350,000
Phase 3: £250,000
£18 per head per session.


3217 residential and nursing care home residents, staff, volunteers and family members in 194 care homes have had access to high-quality creative activity since 2015

cARTrefu developed 29 artists and 7 mentors in Wales to successfully work with vulnerable older people

The analysis found:

  • Improvement in the wellbeing of the residents
  • Improvements in staff and artists attitudes to towards residents
  • Staff more likely to seek out cultural experiences
  • Artists developed new skills

‘I haven’t done this for years… I don’t give myself the permission to still paint and enjoy myself… But this has been the best day I’ve had for years.’ Resident

SROI analysis has shown that the cARTrefu project has created a social value of between

Lessons Learned

Throughout the programme, regular Team Forums offered opportunities to bring artists, mentors, evaluators and co-ordinators together to reflect on delivery and share best practice. For Phase 2, specific art-form groupings were disbanded, new artists and mentors recruited, and the length of the residencies was extended.

Sustainability has been the keys focus of the evaluation for Phase 2 and 3, which has allowed us to continually reflect on the successes and challenges of the project within the wider arts, health and social care context.

The Legacy

Having worked with more than 25% of care homes in Wales, cARTrefu is the largest project of its kind in Europe and is recognised as an example of best practice in a creative, relationship-centred care approach.

The legacy of cARTrefu in the care homes goes beyond an increased appreciation of the arts, and into fundamental elements of relationship-centred care. Staff spoke about how the sessions had improved their relationships with residents:

‘It was so good to see her having fun and looking herself again.’ Care home manager.

Website and Social Media Links

Tags: dementia, older people, care homes, mentor, artists, research, evaluation