Hospitals Learn the Healing Power of Art

Medical facilities are spending more time and money to get their walls just right

Anecdotal stories abound about doctors offices and hospitals with pictures of internal organs or bloody surgeries hanging on the walls.Patient surveys indicate such art, even traditional museum art, polls unfavorably with patients. Some patients say the artwork causes anxiety, even nausea.

An entire hospital art industry has sprung forth in response as initial studies and surveys indicate hospital artwork can aid market share, staff retention and, most importantly, the healing process.

In Elgin, Sherman Health budgeted up to $600,000 for artwork at its new facility, set to be completed in 2009.

Sherman is in the market for hospital art consultants but has yet to choose one.

“Choosing art is a big deal for us,” said Chris Priester, Sherman spokeswoman.

Many hospitals budget $1 to $2 per gross square foot for art in new construction, or up to 1 percent of construction cost, according to industry norms.

“Art isn’t being looked at any more as an added bit of decoration but as an integral part of the healing process,” said Denise Rippinger, founder of Schaumburg-based Health Environment Art Services, a unit of Corporate Artwork. Her firm helped pioneer the corporate and health-care artwork industry almost 20 years ago.

With annual sales of about $2.5 million, her local clients include Provena Mercy Medical Center and Rush Copley in Aurora, Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin and St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates.

Rippinger’s firm these days oversees a $650,000 art buying and consulting project in Richmond, Ind.

However, some hospitals still choose their art with in-house employees or keep old art in order to cut costs.

“A lot of people still don’t fully understand there is a science to this,” said Kathy Hathorn, chief executive officer of American Art Resources, which has worked extensively with Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Houston-based American Art Resources posts $6 million in annual sales. It works exclusively with hospitals — more than 10,000 projects in three decades, Hathorn said.

Throughout the Chicago suburbs, hospitals employ music, poetry, dance and art in their healing programs. They use waterfalls, fish tanks, fountains, gardens and nearby ponds or lakes to create relaxing settings.

In Naperville, Edward Hospital employs its own coordinator of healing arts, Candace Olander.

First hired in 2002, her budget reaches the “tens of thousands,” she said, declining to mention the exact amount.

Wine Country by Maude Durland

Some of the budget goes to hire professional musicians who perform in the hospital’s common areas.

However, most of the hospital’s artwork gets donated by local artists and carries price tags. Eight rotating galleries in common areas renew every three months.

Olander said both staff and patients provide the hospital with positive feedback on the program.

“We think if we take care of our employees, they’ll be likely to deliver better care,” Olander said. “I think (art programs) should be mandated at hospitals.”

Zion-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America consults with local interior consultant Lynn Angelos for its chain of hospitals, including the Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion.

Midwestern Regional’s CEO Anne Meisner said patient surveys and experience help in selecting color, décor and portraits.

“One thing we learned was not to use an excess of reds,” which can remind patients of blood, Meisner said.

No pictures of food in X-ray rooms, reminding fasting patients of being hungry, either. Rural, environmental art seems to be more popular than cityscapes, Meisner said.

A feature of Cancer Treatment Centers’ Zion hospital is an eight-foot-tall mural with 13,000 photos taken by patients and arranged to be viewed from a distance to appear like the company’s tree-boy-dog logo.

Cancer Treatment Centers gave patients 800 disposable cameras and told them to take pictures of anything that inspires them, including themselves, friends or even out the windows.

Similar “Images of Hope” murals exist at its four cancer treatment sites. The one in Zion went up in December. They update it regularly with photos of new patients.

“We get kids running up to it and trying to find themselves (in the pictures),” Meisner said.

She said her aim is to reduce stress levels and promote positive, healing images in a home-like or spa setting.

Indeed, those within the health-care industry have measured the effects of artwork on blood pressure, heart beats and other responses.

Initial evidence suggests patients respond with fewer medications and shorter stays.

Rippinger said hospitals adopting art and patient-friendly programs report increased patient and staff satisfaction while lowering operating costs and staff turnover, a key problem in the health-care field.

Still, every hospital seems to have its own artistic vision.

Alexian Brothers Hospital Network in Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village gives one of its clerics, Brother Valentino Bianco, authority to choose the artwork, mostly religiously-oriented art.

He also works with consultants such as Rippinger and even art consultants in Italy for a variety of selections.

At Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Vice President of Business Development Richard Heim works with an art program that relies on volunteer harpists and high school students.

Community High School District 99 in Downers Grove will be donating art this year from its arts students.

The art program at Good Samaritan — part of the state’s largest hospital system, Oak Brook-based Advocate Health Care — differs from others in the chain, which does not have a unified, system-wide art program. Still, the chain includes money for art in its architectural plans for expansions.

In Arlington Heights, Northwest Community Hospital relies on the Chicago-based architectural firm OWP/P’s director of health care interiors, Jocelyn Stroupe, for its art in new additions that are under construction.

Although no art budget is set, Stroupe plans to form an art committee and use an outside consultant like Rippinger.

“She has the connections with the artists,” Stroupe said. “Art consultants are better at finding what we need from a design and cost perspective.”

Still, Rippinger said the hospital art world is about more than picking soothing colors and landscape portraits.

“You really have to be educated about all the different hospital departments,” Rippinger said. “What you put into radiology is nothing like what you would put into … pediatrics. You have to really know the hospital.”


Excerpt from:

By Mike Comerford

Posted Sunday, April 15, 2007

Studio Art Direct



One thought on “Hospitals Learn the Healing Power of Art

  1. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the
    structure of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

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