Art & The Anatomy of a Hospital

When you think of a hospital, a lot of areas can come to mind; the emergency room, patient rooms, nurses stations, surgical suites, labor and delivery, physician offices, administrative offices, pharmacy, labs, gift shops, corridors, elevator lobbies, behavioral health, oncology, and the list goes on and on. Each area caters to a different need. Therefore, art programs across each of these areas should take the experiences of patients, visitors, and staff, their demographics, and their needs into consideration to create a meaningful experience that enhances patients’ well-being.

A pediatric ward, for example, offers an opportunity to incorporate several approaches to create an art program that is accessible to children of various ages and backgrounds and parents alike. This curated collection from our website depicts an imaginative juxtaposition of settings in a documentary-style of local photography and other fine art, creating a vehicle for storytelling and learning for curious minds.

In a very personal and anecdotal blog post, Elysian McNiff Koglmeier, of Americans for the Arts, recalls the experience she had with artwork while navigating medical issues with her newborn with a rare genetic syndrome. The extensive art collection in this unit “distracted [her] when [she] was overwhelmed, calmed [her] when [she] was stressed, and later, when [her son] could move outside of his room, gave [them] an activity to bond over while [walking] the halls. Art let [her] bring the outside world to [her] son when he couldn’t leave the hospital grounds.” Artwork can speak to us in ways we wouldn’t expect, and least of all in medical setting. Much like the watercolor of a llama that Koglmeier sites as having acted as a reminder to her that “family was always with us,” as that particular animal was a favorite of her mother’s.

Common spaces serve people from all areas of the hospital from corridors to elevator lobbies, or day rooms. These spaces need to cater to a variety of needs. Images of natural surroundings, as one design approach, can exert a powerful and subtle effect on our sense of place. The beautiful aspects of our environments can positively stimulate the mind, as shown in this curated collection of New England, for example. These realistic and abstract, symbolic and literal, representations of nature stimulate a wide range of associations for people from the area.

Commons spaces were the subject of a paper published in 2017. Over two weeks, the study looked at the experiences of patients with no art (Week 1) versus 20 user-ranked paintings (Week 2) in the day rooms of 5 medical wards. Thermal cameras, surveys, and interviews were used to capture much of the data. The study concluded “art contributes to creating an environment and atmosphere where patients can feel safe, socialize, maintain a connection to the world outside the hospital and support their identity (Neilsen, Fich, Roessler, Mullins).”

These are just two examples of countless areas that need much consideration for artwork selection. Who you work with to select these pieces can also help to ensure they set the tone that is needed within a particular space.  We at Great American Art can do just that. Let us know what space you’re trying to create, and we’ll show you how to enhance it.