Our Common Humanity by artist Juli Bolaños-Durman

10 October 2023

Tonic Arts marks World Mental Health Day with the opening of Our Common Humanity at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital

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Our Common Humanity was commissioned by Tonic Arts, NHS Lothian Charity’s award-winning Arts in Health programme. It is one of over 60 major pieces of art and design commissioned by the charity for healthcare settings, across Edinburgh and Lothians, since the programme was first established in 2015.

The idea for Our Common Humanity was developed from a series of art workshops run by Juli Bolaños-Durman and Tonic Arts’ partner organisation Artlink with psychiatric patients at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital, where the patients’ needs for connection in the everyday, and the importance of being held, supported, embraced and given a second chance were highlighted. Each element of this artwork is made from discarded glass which was collected and donated by The Royal Edinburgh Hospital community. Using local heritage hand-cutting techniques, Juli has carefully deconstructed, embellished, and reused each piece in the making of this intricate work, breathing new life into these discarded objects. With the final display playfully lit to create magnificent shadows that bring the glass back to life.

The Tonic Arts programme commissions artworks that create welcoming, calming spaces which soften the clinical environment, providing areas of respite and contemplation, tell stories and create thought-provoking points of interest, towards making people’s time in hospital a better, stimulated creative one.

Juli Bolaños-Durman is an award-winning Costa Rican glass artist and designer based in Scotland. She is known for revitalising waste material by applying various heritage cold-working processes, and her practice is driven by her concern for sustainability and her desire to give both people and objects second chances through her work.

‘Our Common Humanity’ represents the community of a mental health hospital; reflecting a gathering of unique individuals; all with our own challenges and joyful quirks. Tonic Arts looks to collaborate with artists and creatives such as Juli, who create high quality artworks, but who also place patient and staff involvement and representation at the very heart of the work.

Artist Juli Bolaños-Durman said:

I want the work to be testimony to our ever-changing journey: powered by trials and errors, vulnerability, and imperfection. Our daily interactions matter and each one of us has the power to make life better; with the support of the people around us and the community we foster. We are part of a great community that supports one another – no matter where we come from, no matter what we have been through, which is why engaging with psychiatric patients at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital to make this piece was such an important part of my process.” 

Susan Grant, Manager of Tonic Arts said:

To have such a key piece installed in the reception at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital not only mirrors the quality of healthcare that you will receive in this building, but also provides a stunning focal point that speaks of our human need for connection and our willingness to give people a second chance.”