Although artwork is one of the finishing touches to the interior of a healthcare project, it should not be the last thought in project planning. For artwork to blend well with the architecture and complement finishes and furnishings, its selection requires forethought and planning. Therefore, the owner should become art conscious early in the budgeting/planning process. Ideally, art master planning should begin when the architects are developing the design. At this stage, art will become an integral part of the design, not an applied afterthought. If art is considered an afterthought, neither the time nor the money may be sufficient to create a unique, comprehensive package.

As an art consultant and interior designer helping organizations budget, plan, commission, and procure artwork for their healthcare facilities, I begin the process by meeting with key decision makers, including the owner, administrator, medical director, and a representative from marketing. These people have the “vision” for their facility, as well as its market and demographics. As we work together, an exciting, customized artwork plan can be implemented to its fullest.

At the first meeting, we discuss the organization's mission statement and whom the facility wants to reach. Several questions need to be answered: For example, what are the demographics of the people the facility will serve? What major industries are in the area? What drives its economy? These factors are important to creating a successful art package.

Next, we study the floor plans to understand how spaces flow from one to the next and to identify the architectural focal points, such as entrances, high-traffic intersections, corridors, gathering places, etc. A signature, commissioned piece of art should be placed at one of these key locations (or more, for a large facility); less expensive, yet high-impact, limited- and open-edition prints can be displayed elsewhere. This mix enables our team to create attractive spaces, yet stay within the project's budget.

After assessing the facility's needs, we research our database of artists, as well as the client's regional resources, to locate artists whose work is appropriate for commissioning as the signature piece(s). If no one in our extensive database fits the bill, we search until we find someone who does. Our firm acts as an art broker as well as an art consultant, which saves our clients time and money.

An excellent example of the commissioning process is the tapestry created for OSF Saint Francis Center for Health in Peoria, Illinois. The area above the tall, brick fireplace in the lobby needed a signature piece. Working with our client, we decided that a woven tapestry of Saint Francis would soften the space and be an uplifting subject. It was challenging to find a figurative tapestry artist, as opposed to an abstract one. After an exhaustive search, I found Monique Lehman through the editor of Fiber Arts magazine.

Upon obtaining slides from Monique and learning more about her work, I met again with the team and presented Monique's and several other artists’ slides to them. We discussed the various artists’ styles, in depth, and their fit with this project. The team selected Monique, in part because her hand-dying method enables her to use enough thread colors, in combination with her figurative imagery, to create tapestries that are so realistic they resemble oil paintings.

I sent Monique a digital representation of the fireplace wall where the tapestry was to hang. I also conveyed to her the vision for the space expressed by Mark Banholzer of Cannon Design, the project architect, and explained our criteria for the artwork.

After extensively researching the life of Saint Francis, Monique made color sketches, which I presented to the project's design team. They made suggestions regarding color and other aspects of her design, and she made the necessary revisions. Once we were satisfied with her sketches, I wrote the contracts: one between the artist and our firm and the other between our firm and the hospital, and six months later, the tapestry was completed and delivered.

This signature piece is a great example of effective commissioned artwork and its ability to support a hospital's mission. The saint for whom OSF Saint Francis was named, well known for his gentleness and kindness, is there in the midst of patients and families, serving as a reminder that they are in good hands. HD
The Saint Francis of Assisi tapestry hangs over the fireplace in the Main Lobby at the OSF Saint Francis Center for Health, Peoria, Ill. California artist Monique Lehman, who has an MFA degree from the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw, Poland, captured the gentleness and humility of Saint Francis in her tapestry. The 9' × 5' tapestry is woven in a traditional manner, with the artist's hand-dyed weft threads covering a horizontal warp.