Art As Healing

Chronic diseases are a nationwide burden that affect more than 20 million people worldwide. And it’s no secret that the use of art in healing has been widely used to enhance the psychological and physical healing process in not just chronic illness patients, but also traumatic incident patients.

We all know how our environment and surroundings can impact the state of our day or mindset. But in the medical field, hospital rooms, doctor’s offices, and care facilities are often drab and depressing due to their design, not just their nature.

Thankfully, there are facilities that are sprucing up their visual environments. So let’s delve into how hospitals are integrating this notion of “art as healing” into their results and numbers-driven structure…

Most recently, Harlem Hospital Center restored murals first created in 1936 as part of a $325 million patient pavilion for the hospital. The murals’ new home is called the Mural Pavilion and contains new ICU’s, surgery rooms, clinics, imaging spaces and an ER.You can read more about the Mural Pavilion here, but what I’m getting at is the purpose and content of these murals.

After all, $325 million is a lot of money for a new pavilion, although only $4 million has been directly associated with the mural restoration.

Charles Alston's "Magic in Medicine"

Charles Alston’s “Magic in Medicine,” 1940. Located in the Harlem Hospital Center.

Either way, look at what the senior principal for healthcare at architecture firm HOK, Chuck Siconolfi, had to say about their design, “This was not only a cultural device but a therapeutic device. They are as much a tool in the delivery of care as any radiological device or any scalpel.”


Of course the Harlem Hospital Center isn’t the first to focus it’s attention on the anatomy of art.

The next example is something that should be done more often in the medical care industry. Now, yes, I understand that the primary concern is to create machinery, medications, and cures that are going to help the largest amount of people in the fastest time. But how could you NOT want to get a CT scan in this?

Philips CT Scanner by Jeff Koons, RxArt.

Thanks to nonprofit organization, RxArt, Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital received this installation by artist Jeff Koons. To soothe the hearts and minds of pediatric patients, this Philips CT Scanner received a paint job with decals featuring Koons’ Monkeys. Most recently in April 2012, RxArt installed fourteen luminous photographs by James Welling at Emory University Hospital.

Photograph installation by James Welling, 2012.

Hospitals are also creating community projects out of art therapy. In 2009, Saint John’s Health Center announced the creation of a new Media Artwall, which was planned for the their Howard Keck Diagnostic and Treatment Center. The artwall featured 16 50-inch video screens with more than 17 feet of digital display with the purpose of providing an innovative curatorial framework to display local community artwork. You can browse through their community submissions here.

So what do you think? In my opinion, hospitals should be integrating these atmospheres into more, if not all, of their facilities.

But money is an issue, I know. So consider donating you time, art, or money to some of the nonprofits mentioned above.

Perhaps your local hospital could use a makeover of it’s own.


2 responses to “Art As Healing

  1. You should look into coloring therapy. It is a pain relief technique that my sister uses to relieve her fibromyalgia. A bit different but art nonetheless.

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