Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Hospitals are Turning to Art to Reduce Stress / Nigel Prestatyn

As an artist I’m always interested in new and innovative venues to hang art. However my previous opinion of hanging art in hospitals had always been that it was merely a form of distracting decoration. Little did I know…

Researchers are learning more about the precise ways paintings and other works of art can help patients and families in the healing process. With studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety, hospitals are choosing artworks based on the evidence and giving it a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors.

Certainly the health benefits associated with the creation of art is well documented. Art therapy classes run the length and breadth of the country. But the health benefits received from viewing art, are less widely known.

Lisa Harris, a nephrologist and chief executive of Eskenazi Health says, “These [artworks] are not just accoutrements or aesthetics anymore.” With a $1.5 million budget from donors, the health system commissioned 19 artists to create original works to support “the sense of optimism, vitality and energy” for the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital .

 I always think of art in hospitals as running along corridors and entrances, and of course patients do indeed walk along corridors and the like, and so benefit can certainly be gleaned – at least for the physically able. But I wonder how much art is shown in the wards themselves, for certainly this is where patients might best benefit from them. It’s one thing to hobble past an artwork in a corridor, perhaps another thing altogether to lay in one’s hospital bed and contemplate the work. I know which I’d prefer, if I were unfortunate enough to be in that position. And which I’d likely benefit more from.

Heather Kreinbrink says when her daughter Allison had a stroke at age 12 in 2010 and was hospitalized for a week, she and her husband, Rod, found looking at the installation outside the children’s wing provided a sense of calm amid their fear and exhaustion. “It ended up being something we would go to every day for peace and to come to terms with what was happening,” she says. When Allison was discharged, her parents brought her to see it. “It made me think as I saw other kids being pushed in wheelchairs by their parents, how awesome it is to be able to have something like that to take your mind of everything you are going through,” says Allison.

Hearing Alison’s story made me think. I have no figures that suggest this, but I suspect there is far less artwork in the actual wards themselves, than there is in hospital walk ways and the like. And I would imagine that is, in part at least, perhaps a logistical problem. I’m thinking of the walls behind ward beds and surrounding areas filled with medical apparatus of one sort or another. But imagine, if you will, images of artworks projected onto ward ceilings, constantly changing images of art work; in this scenario Alison wouldn’t have wait to recover before she could enjoy and benefit from the artwork as her parents did; she would have benefited from it when she needed it most.


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