Last July, I discussed in the blog "Incorporating Artwork into the Hospital Environment" how art can support patient well-being. A well-planned art program is integral to the overall plan of a hospital, in which good design supports both clinical and emotional needs of patients. 

Recently Steven Singer, Senior VP for Communications at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, contacted me regarding a contemporary art collection at Dana-Farber’s new Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, where approximately 500 works by regional and national artists are displayed throughout the 14-story building completed in 2011. 

The art collection represents Dana-Farber’s commitment to improving the patient experience by incorporating original artwork throughout the hospital. Dana-Farber's Art and Environment Committee oversees the growing collection.

The committee, which began modestly 12 years ago to direct the installation of art for an interior renovation, includes patients, family members, trustees, and staff who manage the acquisition and installation of hundreds of pieces of art throughout its campus. 

“Art has a potential to create inspiration, moments of reflection, healing,” says Jane B. Mayer, chair of the art and environment committee. “We regularly get emails from patients saying how much they appreciate the art. We likewise get positive feedback from the staff and other caregivers, who acknowledge how art enhances the interior environment.”  

The art is funded primarily through donations, with some grant and institutional support. The committee reviews potential artwork to make appropriate selections that represent the multicultural patient base.

“We don’t fill the collection with generic landscapes or works that may be disorienting for patients in admittedly stressful situations,” Mayer adds. “Instead, we look for creative and original pieces that show the range of artistic expression.” 

Works include contemporary, pop, abstract, and representational art in diverse media, from sculpture to mixed-media, works on paper and painting for display. The committee avoids pieces that suggest clinical processes that might remind patients of their illnesses. 

“We also position the art program as an educational resource, a way to introduce art and new artists to patients and staff who ordinarily may not visit a museum,” Mayer says. “We have achieved this by creating a fully accessible Acoustiguide audio and on-line tour of the collection.” 

Dana-Farber is a great example of healthcare institutions investing in the healing power of art. Studies have shown that art can reduce patient stress and expedite the healing process. Fifteen or 20 years ago, simple catalog art was the norm at most healthcare institutions. Today, many other healthcare institutions are taking a similar direction as Dana-Farber. 

That’s good for the patients, good for the artists, and good for the community.