Heléne Hugel, CEO and Artistic Director of Helium Arts, celebrates the work done by the national children's arts and health organisation, who bring their Summer Art Showcase to Galway this summer.


Helium Arts is a charity that provides creative arts experiences to young people living with long-term and often complex medical conditions. Our programmes run nationwide and are led by professional artists in healthcare and community settings. I founded Helium Arts in 2010, and since then, we have worked with more than 5,000 young people.

Eleven per cent of children in Ireland live with a long-term health condition or disability and at least 1% (13,000) of these children are seriously inhibited in their day to day lives, leading to significant social and emotional challenges.

Our creative arts programmes aim to improve the personal, health and social outcomes for these young people by providing opportunities for creativity that they may not otherwise have access to and through connecting them with professional arts practitioners in the heart of their own communities.

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Our workshops offer a safe and supportive environment for children to connect with their peers, and we have designed them to be accessible and inclusive. They are free and operate at locations convenient for the families of participants, so they don't have to travel far.

We provide for a medic to be present to ensure the child’s medical needs are looked after and to reassure parents that they can leave their child to participate worry-free; we know that sometimes, they may be placing their child at a non-school activity for the very first time. We also provide volunteers to support children one-on-one if needed.

Research shows that children facing the challenges of long-term health conditions are 30% more likely to be bullied and they will have fewer close friends compared to healthy peers. They miss significantly - up to 50% - more time in school, with widespread evidence that they are at increased risk of emotional and behavioural problems.

Far more than being merely a service that is 'nice to have', Helium Arts provides a vital intervention in their lives to ensure their creative development and thus wellbeing is improved. This, in turn, supports therapeutic and health outcomes.

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Watch: Seizure the Day is a short fictional film created by young people with epilepsy and inspired by their experiences. The film was produced by Helium Arts in partnership with Epilepsy Ireland.

I am immensely grateful that Helium Arts’ national Creative Health Hub Programme is supported by the Creative Ireland Programme, the Department of Health, the HSE, and the Arts Council.

Our Summer Art Showcase is currently taking place, with a free, public exhibitions in Westside Library in Galway city from 29th June to 9th July, with Limerick City Gallery and Tory Top Library in Ballyphehane, Cork having hosted them earlier in the summer.

The featured artworks are by children aged 6 to 12, and were created in collaboration with professional artists Ashleigh Ellis, Chelsea Canavan and Sarah Fuller.

The positive feedback from the children and parents we work with is the best part of what we do.

Speaking about their son, one parent said: "He's a different child. He makes friends easily now and isn’t afraid to be in a group. There are so many things he’s been excluded from. But this is total inclusion. No matter what."

A ‘family sharing day’ with Helium Arts is taking place in Westside Library, Galway on Saturday, 2nd July, with family-friendly activities. More details are available via the Helium Arts website.