Hospital Art

I had an appointment at the Rehab Institute at Regions Hospital in St. Paul the other day. It was the first time I’d been there since Regions built a new entrance, wing and parking ramp. After parking in the ramp, I made my way up the elevator to the lobby. I was struck by the vastness of the new space when I noticed a sculpture of large, colored rocks set in a water fountain. A graceful, copper sculpture stood nearby.

I took the elevator up to the second floor and down the hall to my destination. After my appointment, while waiting for the elevator to take me back downstairs, I spotted a large woven tapestry of a Tree of Life scene.

The tapestry was so intricate and beautiful, it actually made me stop and think about the weaver and the story she was telling. I became lost in the moment and was no longer worrying about the reason for my trip to the clinic.

Regions, like other hospitals, is installing visual art as a healing and comforting tool for patients, employees and visitors. Some hospitals are including music and performance art. It’s no longer reproduced art purchased by the boxful but art made by the people for the people.

My sister-in-law is president of Hudson (Wisconsin) Hospital and while planning the building of their new hospital she made a concerted effort to include local healing art throughout the hospital. Hudson has also collaborated with the Phipps Center for the Arts for special in-hospital performances.

Touring Hudson’s new campus in 2003 my sister-in-law pointed out art everywhere: glass-blown light shades above registration desks; mosaic birdhouses placed strategically outside patient windows; hallways lined with pottery and quilts (one quilt was made by employees); and a labyrinth behind the hospital where people can contemplate.

The Midwest Arts in Healthcare Network is a resource for this growing trend. Through MAHN, I connected with Twin City artist and attorney, Karolyn Stirewalt. Stirewalt has several commissioned pieces in Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare including the piece pictured with this post.

Stirewalt’s The Healers Mural is a traveling mural used as a barrier for construction that can be moved throughout Gillette as the renovation progresses. The mural depicts the old and new buildings with caricatures of Gillette employees, volunteers and service dogs that young patients will recognize during their visits.

“It livens up the space, makes it more friendly,” said Stirewalt. “Being an attorney in the health care industry I’ve come across studies about the benefits of art in health care facilities. I thought I could help.”

Other area hospitals incorporating art include Woodwinds with a Minnesota woods theme; Hennepin County Medical Center; Allina System using a rotating art collection; and Boynton Health Services at the University of Minnesota.

“Boynton is almost a gallery of local artists,” Stirewalt said. “I’m doing 10 painted ceiling tiles for their women’s clinic. When people are on the exam table they can look up and see an original painting and feel comforted.”

Have you noticed any artwork during your last visit to a hospital? What does incorporating healing art say about a hospital? Would you consider choosing your health care facility based on a healing art philosophy?

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