Category Archives: hospital art

Wall Street Journal, Guardian, NY Times all get in on healthcare art and design this week

In the last week three major new outlets have published detailed articles about arts, design, hospitals, and healing.


‘Mike Kelley 1,’ video art by Jennifer Steinkamp at the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art and Photography

The Wall Street Journal published a sort of arts-n-healthcare-environments primer focused largely on the Cleveland Clinic’s growing collection.


The next day, The Gaurdian UK published an opinion piece where, Jonathan Jones asks ” Isn’t there something patronising and untrue to the human condition in this urge to fill hospitals with jolly art?” and joins me in thinking there should be more to healthcare art then meandering nature photographs.

Two days later, the New York Times, published a sort of architecture-n-healthcare primer looking at the newly designed rooms at the University Medical Center of Princeton, highlighting the fact that in one study patients asked for 30 percent less pain medication in the redesigned space.


Jason Bruges Nature Trail installation for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital

London based lighting designer Jason Bruges created the above interactive installation, made with over 72,000 LED lights embedded in a custom printed hospital-grade wallpaper, for a 165 ft long corridor leading to the operating rooms at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

From Bruges’s website:

“The brief was to design and install a distraction artwork helping to create a calming yet engaging route that culminates in the patient’s arrival at the anesthetic room. Inspiration came from the idea of viewing the patient journey as a ‘Nature Trail’, where the hospital walls become the natural canvas, with digital look out points that reveal the various ‘forest creatures’, including horses, deer, hedgehogs, birds and frogs, to the passerby…. The LED panels are embedded into the wall surface at various heights in order to be accessible to the eye levels and positions of patients traveling along the corridors. Across these digital surfaces abstracted ‘animal movements’ are recreated as interactive animated patterns of light which reveal themselves through the trees & foliage of the forest.”

Sol LeWitt at Einstein Medical Center


ImageImageImagePhotographs via Newsworks

One of Sol LeWitt’s iconic wall drawings (#972) is on a 25 year long-term loan installed in a prominent corridor between the two main entrances of of the Einstein Medical Center in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. Einstein HealthCare Network President and Chief Executive Officer Barry R. Freedman was inspired after seeing a similar larger-scale loan at MASSMoCA, and connected to the LeWitt estate via a former patient and well-known modern art collector.  The 154 foot long wall drawing opened last fall after 27 days of installation by four local artists and two artist representatives from the LeWitt estate, executing the instructions left by the artist. The hospital’s own funds were off-limits to fund the piece, so its presence is thanks to a donation from the LeWitt estate. The particular piece was selected by Anthony Sansotta, the artistic director of the estate. Freedman touts the “Bright. Uplifting, cheerful” nature of the piece and notes that it’s display in a public space allows access to a caliber of well-regarded art by major artists not generally seen in suburban healthcare facilities…per the hospital’s press release:

Hosting a piece of art by the father of Conceptual art is consistent with how we’re working to transform healthcare in the region,” says Freedman. “It also represents our outreach to the community — this is a famous work that is now accessible to anyone.”

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Wish list: The Healing Presence of Art

Richard Cork ‘s The Healing Presence of Art, A History of Western Art in Hospitals, looks like an excellent publication, and the first of its kind. Published in March by Yale University Press, the publisher summarizes:

Fascinated by the astonishingly rich history of art in hospitals, the well-known critic and art historian Richard Cork has written a brilliant account of the subject. These works, which include masterpieces of Western art, have been produced from Renaissance Florence and Siena to the 20th century. Piero della Francesca made a painting for a hospital in Sansepolcro, as did Hans Memling in Bruges, Matthias Grünewald in Isenheim, El Greco in Toledo, Rembrandt in Amsterdam, William Hogarth in London, Vincent van Gogh in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and Marc Chagall in Jerusalem.

The book’s sumptuous images offer a rich range of subjects, from Francisco Goya’s dramatic confrontations with suffering to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s sublime, airborne celebrations of resurrection and heavenly ecstasy. Some, like Leonardo da Vinci’s incisive drawings, are based on uncompromising firsthand study of hospital patients. Others explore a redemptive world where Christ is born, orphans are rescued, and plague victims are given shelter. In this wide-ranging survey, Cork investigates how such artworks have been used to humanize hospitals, to alleviate their clinical bleakness, and to offer genuine, lasting pleasure to patients, staff, and visitors.

It is definitely going on my Christmas list.

“Nobody Goes to the Hospital for the View, but …”



A small article in the New York Times last week highlighted a mural by Odili Donald Odita, recently painted on a drab wall at New-York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.

The drab barrier – erected in 2010 a stone’s throw from patient rooms on the fourth and fifth floors to hide newer mechanical systems – presented such a dismal sight that nurses would avoid putting patients in those rooms. Whenever space became available, they would move patients from the west side, with the view of the plain wall, to the coveted east side, where light bounces off the waves of the East River and a steady stream of boat traffic passes Roosevelt Island.

The artist explains:

That unlike gallery browsers, patients would face his painting for hours and even days. He hoped someone staring at the complex shards might “allow the color to open up other ideas of possibilities or considerations of what might be going on in their life,” he said.


Jean-Philippe Pargade

Private hospital outside of Lille, France by Jean-Philippe Pargade

Jean-Philippe Pargade‘s Paris based architecture studio is receiving attention for a recently inaugrated private hospital located outside of Lille, France. Pictured above, the hospitality inspired hospital includes 225 beds, 10 operating rooms, and well as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and nuclear medicine units. Color blocks of spring hues matched with large windows and swaths of white, allow for clever way-finding clues in a light and crisp environment. The windows are the most strikingly unique element of the building, featuring flower motifs by artist Gary Glaser in incorporated into glazing by Ace Glass.

This hospital is not Pargade’s first project in the field of healthcare design. In 2007 they worked with Gary Glaser to colorize the Sarthe-et-Loir Health Center, Using a similar vocabulary, the firm explains that the design “creates tension between the rural landscape and the technological elegance of the architecture. The sensitive facade of silk-screen-printed glass is animated by the musical rhythm of the windows. Colour plays a major role and reveals the vital contribution to the clinics that has been made by the use of art work.”

A similar color scheme and ideology can be seen in the beautiful 2012 facade renovation at the military teaching hospital in Saint-Mande “which creates a hyphen between the city and the Bois de Vincennes, an architecture of transitions and passages, introducing fluidity between the countryside and architectural stratifications of different ages that are present at the site.”

The new Johns Hopkins Hospital building

An interesting video that provides an introduction to the extensive art program incorporated in the new John Hopkins hospital building, the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Over 70 artists have created over 500 works for the new space, funded largely by Michael Bloomberg. It’s great that such a high profile institution has an entire website devoted to the arts program in their new facility, and exciting to see a major philanthropist so prominently involved in a project to include art in a healthcare space. A nice overview is available via a Bloomberg press release here. And a short summery, from the project’s flickr page:

– A massive exterior work by Spencer Finch, who transformed the glass and steel curtain wall enclosure of the 1.5 million-square-foot building into a shimmering composition of color and light.

– 11 super-sized sculptures by set designer Robert Israel

– unique window shades by Jim Boyd, inspired by Baltimore’s folk tradition of painting door and window screens

– a few hundred works of art inspired by beloved children’s books, providing “medicine for the soul.”

– a few hundred works of art inspired by nature and the garden.

And a few highlights:


The largest work of art in the building is a shimmering glass curtain wall that envelops the exterior of the 11.5 million-square-foot facility. Artist Spencer Finch’s composition of color and light features a carefully distilled palette of 26 shades inspired by Monet's garden in Giverny.

Maria Park

Mickey Smith

Projectione at Riley Hospital for Children

Indianna Design/Fabrication Studio Projectione recently completed a large-scale installation at the still-under-construction Simon Family Tower at the Riley Hospital for Children. The video above chronicles the installation, and provides fun insight into the complexities of actually installing such an ambitious element in a project. The Sunrise installation covers 768 feet of the first floor atrium and includes over 3800 unique components making up the image and surface, each with a different color, scale, and distance from the wall. From Projectione’s press release:

The Riley Sunrise aims at representing imagery at multiple scales for all audiences. The vibrancy of the colors and symbolism of each shape or “pixel” speaks to the child, peaking their interest and lifting their spirits. The complexity and patterns generated speak to all generations and encourage discussion and interpretation. Our concept is an abstraction of an image into its main colors and uses graphic symbols as the representation of each pixel. Each symbol is independently mounted and varies its distance from the wall, creating a three dimensional graphic that is read from across the room and up close. Because of the 3D variation, the graphic will visually change as users walk by and can be experienced differently each time….Our hope is that these super-graphics can serve as a pleasant distraction for visitors of the hospital and lead to discussions that can re-focus a conversation towards something positive and uplifting.


(via archdaily)

WRL: Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Expansion

Minimalists will take get great joy from this post about the Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital‘s expansion and renovation by architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky. The hospital, located in Ohio, has about 500 beds, with 72 of them located in the newly built tower, which includes two dozen NICU rooms, as well as general inpatient beds. Healthcare Building Ideas writer  Jennifer Kovacs Silvis recently took a tour of the facility and noted:

Looking more like an art museum than a traditional healthcare setting, yesterday I saw firsthand how white walls, floors, ceilings, and, yes, even furniture, create an environment that goes against what many support as the proven best methods of healthcare design. What I found on our tours were very minimalistic interiors complemented by a standout art program that showcases commissioned works right alongside prints of infamous classics… And it’s silent. From sound-absorbing ceiling panels to offset the hard surface floors to systems running without any noticeable buzz, patients and staff alike are left with a soothing environment absent of distraction, a place where they can focus and be reflective on the medical situations at hand. Reed jokingly called it “un-architecture”—the firm’s simplification of the building design. But it’s really quite the opposite.

From the looks of these images, she’s spot-on. It’s an unusually simple space, with crispy simple art and tons of white, but it’s a breath of fresh air when viewed next to bright and busy linoleum floors and pattered upholstery. As for that art, the most noteworthy commission was for Catherine Opie’s series of photographic large-format photographs of Lake Erie in four seasons. The moody and luminous series was created specifically for the 100-foot concourse of the new tower. It’s a far cry from Opie’s political, challenging gender focused work she’s best known for – but it’s an excellent example of how an artist you’d never imagine including in a healthcare environment can create the perfect piece for one. There’s a nice review of the series here at, and in an article from the Cleveland News-Helard, Opie says:

“For those from the area, this serves as a reminder of all that exists just outside the walls of Hillcrest Hospital — the entire world’s potential and natural beauty”

+Culture Shot Manchester

It’s always exciting to see mainstream, national media picking up stories about art and healthcare environments. Last week The Guardian profiled Culture Shots, a week long art and culture initiative at the Central Manchester NHS trust, aimed at healthcare professionals working within the trust. The museum led drop-in events, which took place at all five hospital sites in Manchester, were planned to fit around a busy working day and lasted between just one minute and thirty minutes. According to the Guardian, it’s the first time in the UK that a trust hosted a museums and galleries week within a hospital setting. Here’s the premise, taken straight from the Culture Shots website:

Cultural experiences can help improve health and wellbeing, and can result in benefits that range from the physiological to the emotional. From reduced heart rates and requests for analgesia, to a reduction in the sense of loneliness felt by those suffering from mental ill-health, cultural experiences have been proven to help improve the lives of patients and those who care for them. Cultural experiences have even been linked to longer life expectancy. Culture Shots, your chance to find out why culture works, and how you can use the expertise within Manchester’s museums and galleries to improve your professional practice, and your patients’ health and wellbeing. We think culture matters, and hope that by the end of the Museums and Galleries Week, you will too.

Mini-sessions included “Music in healthcare” “How can museum artifacts help patients” “People patients and portraits” “Artmed”  and plenty of guided tours of the hospital art collections. It’s a great way to get disparate stakeholders including clinicians, administrators, curators, and artists engaging with one another in an a way that’s both enjoyable and informative.

Manchester is a hotbed of arts, health, and culture work. I feel privileged to have completed my MA thesis research within the trust there at LIME arts (an organization also involved in organizing Culture Shots).  For more information about arts and health in Manchester, check out the MMU Arts and Health website.

Video: Art program at Capital Health’s Hopewell Campus

Screenshot from the PBS short documentary

Here’s a link to a 10 minute video piece about developing an arts program at the new Capital Health Medical Center’s Hopewell Campus. The short documentary was shown on New Jersey PBS’s State of the Arts TV show. The synopsis:

Art is part of the healing experience at the Capital Health Medical Center in Mercer County, NJ. Lin Swensson, breast cancer survivor and art consultant, is uniquely qualified for the job. Over four years, Swensson worked closely with doctors, staff, the architectural firm, and the community to commission original art from local area artists, including artist/architect/designer Michael Graves.

The art program includes 800 works of art by nearly 70 local artists, and is part of an overall scheme to “put an emphasis on creating a stylish and soothing health environment that resembles an upscale hotel rather than a sterile hospital” according to an article on, which also quotes Larry DiSanto, Capital Health’s executive vice president as explaining “‘When people walk in we want them to say, ‘I can’t believe this is a hospital.”

Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo

Jennifer Jones's "Delores Room"

Lisa Silverman's "Dragonfly Room"

Lisa Silverman's "Dragonfly Room"

The above before-and-after transformations were made possible by Rooms that Rock 4 Cancer, a small, simple San Fransisco non-profit striving to connecting hospitals and clinics that provide outpatient chemotherapy with interior designers willing to donate their time and effort to transform drab chemotherapy rooms. The project was started in May 2011 when artist Nancy J. Ballard donated a watercolor to her San Fransisco doctor’s office. The narrative on the website goes like this – “Dr. Hufford was overjoyed with the artistic gifts of generosity, yet she saw a much bigger future for the project. In an effort to revamp the chemotherapy rooms in their entirety, Nancy reached out to twenty local interior designers for their professional aid. Within three days, six designers had reacted enthusiastically, volunteering their time and creative efforts for the first RTR4C Project.” The projects are funded by donations and there have been five room makeovers to date, four at Dr. Stephen Hufford’s office and one at the Marin Cancer Care. Ballard is in conversation with additional cancer treatment centers.

It’s a remarkably simple idea that makes a big impact on these small spaces. Though one might argue that employing the services of interior designers without specific healthcare training isn’t ideal, the rooms had no discernible design scheme in their before pictures, so any practicing designer’s vision will effectively enhance the existing utilitarian spaces. The project provides publicity for the designers involved, taking the “decorator’s showcase” house idea and applying it to healthcare spaces. An inspiring project, that I hope reaches far and wide.

Mathieu Lehanneur’s “Tomorrow Is Another Day”

French industrial designer Mathieu Lehanneur has made a splash on the blogs this week with his thoughtful techno-jewel “Tomorrow Is Another Day” installation, conceived for a palliative care unit at a hospital in Paris.  From Lehanneur’s website:

Originally intended for the Palliative Care Unit of the Diaconesses / Croix-Saint-Simon Hospital Group, this device eludes the course of time by offering everyone the opportunity to see tomorrow’s sky. Conceived from weather information gathered in real time on the Internet, the luminous – atmospheric and impressionist – image of this sky is diffused through the network of a honeycomb structure, appearing both like a sculpture and a celestial globe.

It’s theoretically sophisticated, with questions of “uncertainty, ineluctability and spirituality” abounding, but it’s also a tranquil little gem that one can gaze at without even knowing it’s acting as a portal to an abstracted version of tomorrow’s sky. The work will be available as a limited edition through the Carpenters Workshop Gallery. It is unclear if the work was ever installed in the hospital.

(via Fast Company’s Co.Design)