By special contributor, Risa Jefferson
It’s no secret that art has a strong hold on our emotions. Historically, great paintings and music have been known to move audiences to wonder — whether it’s a Picasso piece, or ancient artifacts from the Sicilian Seas. No matter how small or abstract, art can leave audiences with a renewed sense of connection with the world and fellow humans.
It comes as no surprise that art has been lending its curative benefits to hospitals. Medical experts from Maryville University emphasize that because of the growing complexities of the healthcare industry, many medical practitioners are looking towards modern strategies to improve patient care. Hospitals are no longer just white rooms where people come expecting the worst. Fortunately, art installations and programs are breathing new life into the world of healthcare.
The link between art and hospitals is founded on cultivating a healthier mental space for its patients, mainly by including art in their facilities. While some may interpret this movement as an architectural maneuver, there’s a lot more to it than aesthetics.
The connection between art and hospitals isn’t something particularly new. In fact, a 2010 study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine underscores the psychological role that color hues and themes play in the minds of viewers. For example, the color blue is known to be particularly calming, which can help people with anxiety.
The inclusion of art within hospitals makes for welcoming spaces, which can curb the pressure that comes with hospital visits. Indeed, these psychological effects mean that even the simple act of placing paintings in the hallway can lead to huge psychological benefits. The same is true even for elevator music, which is characterized by soothing instrumental beats.
Great interior design builds on the precepts of creating spaces that foster social interaction and communication, a concept that hospitals can pick up on when it comes to making their spaces less sterile. Displaying paintings in hallways and eating areas can inspire conversation amongst hospital visitors while also allowing patients to focus their attention elsewhere. This is also why some hospitals have chosen to put up large-scale installations in lobbies and outdoor areas, as these cultivate an atmosphere of culture and artistic inspiration rather than a sense of graveness.
What kind of art matters?
Discussions about art in hospitals, therefore begs the question: what kind of art should be displayed? Taking paintings as an example — from idyllic landscapes to portrayals of war — choosing the wrong kind of painting can end up disturbing rather than healing patients.
It’s perhaps within hospitals where we can objectively look at what kind of art matters. Artsy’s examination of figurative versus abstract art, highlights that hospitals need to consider what kind of effect they wish to provoke. Whereas figurative landscapes do lead to the aforementioned sense of relaxation, abstract art can inspire a sense of contemplation.
Involving patients in artistic creation
Hospitals can also look to create art programs for patients. The Cleveland Clinic has started to develop its music therapy program, where classes are held for a host of patients. These classes have been particularly useful in reducing stress levels within child patients, but Cleveland Clinic’s doctors have also been using music therapy to improve coordination in patients with multiple sclerosis.
On top of this, art programs provide a way for hospital patients to bond with their loved ones. Instead of the typical visiting hours, painting and drawing programs allow both patient and visitor to take their minds off of medical stresses. These programs allow the patient to take charge of their own recovery, though they may not think of it as such.
To answer the title, art can certainly improve hospitals. The key to getting the best benefits lies in understanding what kind of art will most benefit patients, thus curating more thoughtful installations and programs.
Special contributor, Risa Jefferson is an HR practitioner with a degree in psychology, but her passion has always been in writing. When she’s not at her desk, Rina finds joy in reading novels and urban gardening.