ASID: Tips and Sources When Selecting Healthcare Art
Evidence has taught us the importance of the arts in healthcare and the healing process, but what can be said about the proper selection of artwork? We know that artwork can have a positive impact on the patient experience and distractions, but can it have a negative impact as well? I was surprised when I learned in college about how abstract art can actually impact psychological states in certain patients. It makes perfect sense because it usually spurs the viewer into coming up with meaning to the unclear subject matter, but I had never really thought about that until then. Being an artist myself, I’ve spent some time recently exploring the field of the arts in healthcare and want to share with you today some of the resources and tips I’ve found. The main “rules of thumb” when selecting artwork for a healthcare environment is to be aware of the wide range of occupants that will be in the facility, focus on uplifting pieces, and steer clear of abstract work. Taking the time to carefully and thoughtfully consider artwork selections is highly important and can prove to have either great or mediocre results. Artwork shouldn’t be an afterthought at the end of the design or construction process. Two personal experiences come to mind to illustrate this. I had a wonderful experience at a nice new clinic facility a little over a year ago. Everything was new, very well designed, and promoted the healing process—but I was a little disappointed in the artwork selection. The portrayal of nature and the overall aesthetic was great, but yellow walls with a primarily yellow painting clashed. The walls were a vibrant yellow, yet the painting was more of a pale yellow. It was a minor detail that perhaps only a designer would really notice, but I felt like it would have been even more successful had the wall color and artwork been a little more complementary of each other. The second experience was in an exam room at an older facility. A large poster print of a pale gray and blue landscape painting was on the wall with the artist’s name and the gallery show. The thing that really got to me was the year printed in a large font on the side—"1984." Between the fact that the painting emitted feelings of isolation and that date, it gave off the impression that the selection of artwork was very low priority and hastily decided upon with little consideration of the patients who would be viewing it. Throughout my personal research, I’ve found several sources of information that expand upon some of the tips mentioned, as well as explore varying sides of the popular movement in nature photography and artwork. Here are just a few of the references I’ve come across:
1) Dr. Henry Domke’s Web site at http://www.healthcarefineart.com/ was one of the best overall resources I found. Here are a few specific links I would like to highlight from his work:
· “4 Key Ideas for Art in Healthcare” by Henry Domke, M.D.:
· Picture of Health” by Henry Domke, M.D. – free ebook:
2) There is actually a Society for the Arts in Healthcare that you can become a member of, or keep up with their e-newsletter.
3) In the February issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN, Barbara Lyons Stewart writes about art and topics such as a close-up view of an object in nature vs. a wide landscape. Some of the points she mentions are very interesting.
4) American Art Resources can provide consultation for art programs and artwork selection.
5) An article by Kathy Hathorn, MA and Upali Nanda, PhD explores the evidence behind artwork and how it can improve quality.
6) Healthcare Art Consulting also provides consultation services. Be sure to check out their “iart tour” iPhone application as well.
The great thing about art is that it has the ability to be a constantly changing and evolving aspect of an interior space, and it has the power to affect a person’s mood and emotion. Especially in instances where the design team may feel a little unsure about art selection, there are a multitude of art consultants to collaborate to achieve the best possible results. All in all, it is important that we select artwork that provides the best benefits to the patients that our facilities serve.