Creating and choosing art for healthcare environments is about much more than just beautifying a space. People in those environments are often worried, stressed, sad, and in need of healing. Experts have found that through evidence-based design, these places can become much more warm and welcoming and certain design choices can actually aid the healing process. Carefully chosen artwork in these settings not only has a positive impact on the patients, visitors, and staff, but also on the perception of care given by the facility.
I’ve had several artists, designers, and publishers ask about placing artwork in healthcare environments. They want to be a part of creating a healing environment, but aren’t sure how to go about it. So considering evidence-based design and my own experiences in curating art for healthcare, I’ve put together a few guiding principles when creating or choosing art for healthcare environments–
1 | happy, engaging imagery
Nine times out of ten, unless you’re there for the entrance of a new baby into the world, being in a hospital or other type of healthcare environment is not a happy or joyful occasion. And with all the weird smells, strange noises, and necessary sterility of these settings, no wonder they can be seen as such cold, intimidating places! Creating and curating art for healthcare environments that fosters a more warm, welcoming atmosphere goes a long way toward making patients and visitors feel more at ease in their surroundings. Work that makes us smile, reminds us of family and love, and calls to mind memories of happy times all can work together to ease the mind and spirit.
2 | lead the viewer on a journey
Often when you ask a hospital patient how they’re doing, you may get an answer that begins with “I’d rather be…”. Patients and visitors often wish they were anywhere but where they are. Artwork that creates a sense of voyeuristic escape can lessen anxiety by giving the viewer a means of liberation from their current situation. They’re able to think less about their pain or circumstances as their mind wanders and wonders what might be over that hill or around that bend.
3 | create a sense of calm, peacefulness and positivity
By using natural, organic imagery as symbols of peace, restoration, and comfort, the artwork in healthcare environments can become instruments of healing. Studies have shown that patients shown nurturing scenes of nature required lower strength pain medication. These kinds of images also foster a sense of the world outside the walls of the facility and the goal to get back to where the skies are blue and the waters peaceful.
4 | encourage interaction
Hospitals can be lonely, scary places. Choosing artwork that may garner conversation goes a long way toward creating connections among patients and visitors, as well as providing a much needed mental escape. Sculpture and interactive digital artwork do well to give patients and visitors a purposeful sense of exploration and the unexpected and abstract can create a path to solving a puzzle and thereby, a means of distraction.
5 | create reflections of community
Each hospital or healthcare facility has an important role to play as a part of a community. Honoring the history, landmarks, and atmosphere of that community can create a sense of familiarity and connection in places where we often feel helpless and alone.
Creating and curating art for healthcare environments is about so much more than simply manufacturing a pleasing looking space. Instead of merely being places of clinical procedures and processes, through art and design hospitals and other medical facilities are becoming places of nurturing and healing. Artists, designers, and consultants are looking more and more not at what the artwork speaks to them, but how it promotes positivity and restoration to the visitor and patient.
You can read more on evidence based design in this Guide to Evidence Based Art by Kathy Hathorn, MA, and Upali Nanda, Ph.D.
All images are linked above.