8. Commissioned Art

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” –Pablo Picasso

I’ve heard that art has healing power. Whether that is true for everyone, it matters not. As one Planetree (“promotes the development and implementation of innovative models of healthcare”) component says, “Artwork in patient rooms, treatment areas and on art carts add to the ambiance (of the hospital). Volunteers work with patients who would like to create their own art, while involvement from artists, musicians, poets and story tellers from the local community help to expand the boundaries of the health care facility.”

Art’s importance in the hospital setting is a design component that can help patients and families (and staff!) feel more comfortable. Anything that helps to reverse the notion that a hospital is cold and gray is a good thing. Art adds color and warmth.

But we must be careful: I’m sure we’ve all seen those tired, old pieces that have been on display in the hospital’s waiting room for too long. our own system has a solution. Seth wrote a few months ago (I’ve remembered it this long, so it must have been good) about a truly intriguing idea: an artist in residence. We will hire an artist (or a few, even, depending on our size) that comes to work everyday to create art that will be displayed throughout the hospital. If anyone wants to buy a piece of art, they can. That piece will be taken off display and replaced with another work. Rotating art will keep the atmosphere fresh, it may even turn into something of an exhibition that we normally see at museums.

The notion of good art in the hospital is growing. There’s even a conference on The Value and Importance of Art in Health Care (be careful, it’s a PDF). And you can even get a daily fix on health care and art by reading this blog, it has some good stuff. If going all the way and hiring an artist in residence is too much for your organization here are some tips on starting an art program.

Principle #8: our own system, on its journey to try innovative ideas, will hire an artist in residence (maybe even a team!) to keep the hospital full of great art. This art will help to create an atmosphere attractive to patients, staff, and the community.