Why is Art Integral to Healthcare?
The restorative properties of artwork should be carefully considered when it comes to spaces within the community healthcare, where the potential to stimulate holistic healing is limitless. With hundreds of research projects clearly demonstrating the benefits of using the arts as an integral part of healthcare, we look at how creative intervention can transform a hospital.
Hanging overhead in the light-filled reception space at The Christie’s Proton Beam Therapy Centre in Manchester – the first High Energy NHS proton beam therapy centre in the UK – a cluster of pyramidal forms play with light to evoke a tranquillity only found in nature, forming a forest-inspired canopy that sprawls across the ceiling.
Winter Garden, like other of our artworks tailor-made for healthcare spaces, was created as a direct response to the physical environment of the centre, taking into account art’s proven abilities to aid in wellbeing and the healing process. As found by Arts Council England’s A Prospectus for Arts and Health (2003), more than thirty scientific studies showing how exposure to nature quickly decreases stress and reduces pain, slowing respiration and lowering blood pressure, we wanted to create an installation that could echo this sensation.
“More than thirty scientific studies show how exposure to nature quickly decreases stress and reduces pain, slowing respiration and lowering blood pressure”
Acrylicize. The Christie, Proton Beam Centre
In Winter Garden, motion lights are programmed to conjure illusions of flickering sunlight, creating areas of warmth and shade, mimicking the experience of sitting underneath a grove of trees with the sun streaming through. The aim was to provide a serene and peaceful environment from which patients, visitors and staff can reflect, breathe, and feel a sense of escapism.
“A healthcare setting can be transformed from a bland and impersonal space into a place of calm and warmth, humanising the space when artistic intervention is introduced”
Improving mental health, reducing negative emotions, and stimulating holistic healing are just a few of the ways in which art can have a profound impact on patients. Staff retention rates are improved, patients feel more valued, helping them to maintain a sense of dignity, and have a more positive experience of the received care. Often associated with sterility and anxiety, a healthcare setting can be transformed from a bland and impersonal space into a place of calm and warmth, humanising the space when artistic intervention is introduced.
“The length of stay of patients on a trauma and orthopaedic ward was one day shorter when they experienced visual arts and live music”
One of hundreds of research projects that clearly demonstrate the benefits of using the arts as an integral part of healthcare, The Study of the Effects of the Visual and Performing Arts in Healthcare, by Rosalia Staricoff at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital 1999- 2003, found that the length of stay of patients on a trauma and orthopaedic ward was one day shorter when they experienced visual arts and live music, and their need for pain was significantly less.
Designing for Health: Architecture, Art and Design at the James Cook University Hospital, NHS Estates, 2005, carried out over two years in two hospitals – Middlesbrough General Hospital and the James Cook University Hospital – compared hospital accommodation before and after moving into a new building that included high-quality art and design, intended to contribute to the impact of the new hospital as a ‘therapeutic environment’, as well as providing the hospital with links to the community via the themes of the work. The works on display were valued by staff and patients as providing colour, distraction and a sense of calm within the public areas, and service-users who would not normally see themselves as consumers of art commented that they really valued the presence of artworks.
A site-specific project for Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, Jerusalem, called for the addition of artwork in both the entrance to the hospital, as well as throughout the children’s ward. Greeting visitors in the lobby, we created Cycle: a bespoke lighting installation that takes inspiration from the hues of the Jerusalem skyline, representing the theme of interconnectivity via its entwined form; the ribboned forms representing all the working parts that interweave to keep the hospital running smoothly.
Acrylicize. The Cycle, Shaare Zedek
Our mural Magical World in the Sky, designed to run through the entirety of the children’s ward – also corresponding with the seating and furniture used throughout the spaces, to ensure a more immersive experience – was designed to enhance the patient experience, using themes of adventure and vibrancy to act as a welcome distraction. Featuring a world of illustrated characters and scenes of wildlife, each bird depicted draws from those native to the country, bringing a sense of the outside in and once again drawing on nature’s healing benefits.
Acrylicize. The Magical World in the Sky, Shaare Zedek
The parent of a young patient using the space enthused, ‘I think my son is actually in a better mood just because we moved to the new hospital, and everything is decorated in such a cheerful way. Children don’t want to go home’.
“The work helps to transfer the children and their families to a healing and less fearful place” – Ruth Ralbag, Deputy Director of Shaare Zedek
People all over the country are using the arts to make a difference within health and healthcare, and with evidence of the therapeutic impact of good design, it is now widely recognised that experiencing art and culture can help to transform the quality of life for individuals and communities. As a studio, we have the opportunity to work across many different sectors – workplace, hospitality, public realm, sports and healthcare – and by educating ourselves on the holistic benefits of art we are able to appraoch new projects in the knowledge that we can do more than just reinvigorate a space; we can help, at least in part, improve both the mental and physical health of viewers.
Written by Amber Bednall / Illustrations by Connie Wright
Arts Council England (2011), A Prospectus for Arts and Health
Staricoff R (2003), The Study of the Effects of the Visual and Performing Arts in Healthcare
University of Durham (2005), Designing for Health: Architecture, Art and Design at the James Cook University Hospital