Indianapolis’ public safety-net hospital has gone through multiple name changes—starting as City Hospital in 1859 and changing to Indianapolis General and Wishard Memorial before becoming Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in 2013. But during all those years—and name changes—it’s held a strong commitment to artwork in the healing environment.

In 1914, then City Hospital in Indianapolis was constructing two isolation units when local philanthropists approached the hospital about donating a painting to hang inside one of the wards. Although the idea of art in a hospital was new at the time, it was well received by administrators. The program grew in scope, too, expanding from one piece of art to having several artists, including Indiana resident T.C. Steele, paint murals throughout the building.

Nearly 100 years later, when planning began for the new Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital, the incorporation of art was still a priority. “From the very beginning, we wanted the art to be seamlessly part of the design and structure of the building, and integral to the way that people experience the building,” says Matthew Gutwein, president and CEO of Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County, the parent company of Eskenazi Health. “We didn’t want it to be art that’s just plopped here and there.”

Several of the original works, including T.C. Steele’s “The Four Seasons” series, were gathered into a historic collection that’s complemented by 100 new original works on display throughout the new campus.

The pieces appear in expected places, such as waiting rooms, elevator lobbies, and the atrium. But Eskenazi extended its effort to more unusual sites, as well, such as the large sculpture “May September” by Rob Ley that hangs on the exterior of the parking deck. “A large parking garage can be a blight on the landscape,” Gutwein says. “We challenged our architects to have this parking garage not be an unattractive presence.”

Near the front door, The Commonground green space houses interactive water features that are designed to be used by patients, families, staff, and community members. “It gives the project this grounding moment of purpose and meaning that, frankly, a lot of projects don’t ever get,” says Paul Strohm, vice president and global healthcare director for HOK and principal-in-charge on the project (St. Louis).

The new building has also provided the opportunity to add a music program on the healthcare campus. A concert grand piano was donated for the main lobby, and students and faculty members of local universities, as well as renowned violinists, have held concerts there. “It’s taking healing and community connectedness to a broader level,” says Gutwein.

For more on the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital, read:

Eskenazi Health Embraces Its Civic Duty

Eskenazi Health Creates A Feast For The Senses

Podcast: Design Goals Of A New Public Safety-Net Hospital