May 20, 2014

Art in Healthcare Brings Creativity to Healing

 

For many, being a patient in or a visitor to a hospital is not a happy experience, much less one that would be described as creative, inspiring, or visually stimulating. But the Cleveland Clinic and other healthcare facilities are working to change that. “I want this to feel like MoMA,” Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic said, referring to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. And his facility, one of the leading hospitals in the country and a collector of more than 5,400 works of art,  is not far from having the air of a renowned art museum.

Catherine Opie, Somewhere in the Middle, 2010-2011, 22 photographs, Cleveland Clinic

Catherine Opie, Somewhere in the Middle, 2010-2011, 22 photographs, site-specific commission, image courtesy of Cleveland Clinic

While hospitals around the country are beginning to embrace the beauty of a restorative environment in the healing process, New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) is training interior designers to specialize in assisting healthcare facilities and hospitals to curate an environment designed for healing. “Healthcare design is an important topic for NYSID in light of our Master of Professional Studies program in Healthcare Interior Design, one of the only programs in the country focused on interior design and healthcare.” said David Sprouls, president of NYSID. “When we think of art in hospitals, we usually think of pastel-hued flower prints or landscape paintings—art that blends into the background, not pops into the forefront.”

Jennifer Steinkamp, Mike Kelley 1, video, Cleveland Clinic

Finkel said one piece is particularly beloved by patients and visitors is a video projection of a whirling tree by Jennifer Steinkampwhich reflects the seasons through the changing colors of the leaves. Jennifer Steinkamp, Mike Kelley 1, video installation, image courtesy of Cleveland Clinic

To help bring the topic to the front lines, NYSID hosted “Contemporary Art in Healthcare Environments,” a lecture looking deeper into the connections between art, design, and healing. The April 23 event featured presentations from Jennifer Finkel, curator of the Cleveland Clinic Art Program, and Diane Brown, founder and executive director of RxArt, a non-profit organization that transforms pediatric hospitals with site-specific art installations.

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, BlueBerg (r11i01), 2007, suspended anodized aluminum, Cleveland Clinic

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, BlueBerg (r11i01), 2007, suspended anodized aluminum, site-specific commission, image courtesy of Cleveland Clinic

Finkel shared details of the Cleveland Clinic’s aim to create a visual culture that serves patients and their families with art as an integral part of the patient experience, something she called a “patient-centered curatorial practice.” The facility operates clinics not only in Ohio, but also in Florida, Nevada, Canada, and Abu Dhabi, throughout which a collection of works in all media, including site-specific commissions and rotation exhibitions, are on display. The extensive art program, officially established in 2006, includes audio and ambassador art tours offered to patients, visitors, and staff, bringing the art to life in the healthcare experience.

Jeff Koons CT Scanner at Advocate Children's Hospital

Jeff Koons CT Scanner at Advocate Children’s Hospital

For Diane Brown, her entry into healthcare art stemmed from personal experience. When undergoing a CT scan procedure, she imagined a favorite painting to calm her nerves. The idea for RxArt was born, and today the program has a number of installations throughout the country, including a CT scanner transformed with paintings by Jeff Koons. “This is a long way from posters of pastoral Provence haystacks,” Brown said. “Based on earlier studies of what patients might want to see on the walls, nature paintings are well-meaning, but they have minimal interest for children. However, elements that inspire creativity and humor directly generate positive experiences for kids.”

Kenny Scharf in the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatric Units at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, NY.

Kenny Scharf in the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatric Units at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, NY.

Positive, indeed! The RxArt testimonials attest to the difference the program is making in lives each and every day. One of my favorites is from Sara Burnette of Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “It’s a real thing when a child’s mind gets off their pain and their sickness—it makes them heal, it makes them relax, and it helps them recover and get better quicker.”

Kudos on the innovation by design! These healthcare facility design and education programs are visionaries who can see the connectedness of our minds and bodies and work to create a warm, welcoming, inspiring environment in a place that is not usually known for hospitality. What a wonderful way to bring art into everyday life!

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