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The Benefits of Contemporary Art in Medicine and Healthcare Institutions

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Over thousands of years, many disciplines have utilized ancient to contemporary art in several different ways to benefit people in their everyday life and circumstances. One place contemporary art can benefit an individual in the very reality of their life in the here and now, is in medicine and healthcare institutions. Art may benefit an individual by putting them into a calmer state and making them feel more settled. When staying in a hospital, an individual may seem very anxious and nervous about the situation, therefore art within a hospital helps a person become more relaxed. Dealing with a situation first hand has helped me notice the importance of art within a hospital and not just reading the benefits in articles.

According to Steinhart, a New York University of culture, education, and human development defined contemporary art as the art produced today by those artists living now in the twenty-first century (Definitions- Art + Education- NYU Steinhardt). Art that is “fresh off the easel” mirrors the life of present-day visitors and patients. This type of art provides an opportunity to reflect on societal issues related to ourselves and the individuals around us. Contemporary artists work in a diverse environment in which their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge boundaries and produce simple definition. This type of art takes part in cultural diversity that produces larger frameworks such as family, identity, and nationality.

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Many different types of art are used in hospitals all over the world today. “Fine art is good medicine,” states Dr. Jennifer Finkel in the article Contemporary art in medicine: the Cleveland Clinic art collection. Dr. Jennifer Finkel, a psychiatrist in New York, received her medical degree from State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, College of Medicine. Dr. Finkel is one of 312 psychiatric doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and has been in practice for over 10 years specializing in Psychiatry. One specific hospital that uses contemporary art is the Cleveland Clinic. In the Cleveland Clinic, art can be comforting, affirming life to families, and lifting hope and spirit in individuals. When art is used within a healthcare or solemn setting, it creates an encouraging, healing environment where nurses, doctors, patients and families feel the support from each other. In 2006, the Cleveland Clinic Art Program became a part of the Arts & Medicine Institute at Cleveland Clinic. This art collection contains nearly 4,500 pieces of art that support the local, national, and international art communities. Artwork and framework from the recent decades are focused on at the Cleveland Clinic collection. Challenging viewers to observe art from different points of view and excelling in creativity encourages an environment rooted from contemporary art.

At the Cleveland Clinic Art Program, the mission “is to enrich, inspire and enliven their patients, visitors, employees and community and to embody the core values of the institution: collaboration, quality, integrity, compassion and commitment”. This mission inspires healthcare workers to participate in placing fine art throughout the health system, in exam rooms, patient rooms and staff corridors. Hospitals are stressful environments where extreme drama occurs such as death, birth, injury and saving lives. There are a range of emotions in the hospital that occur throughout the patients, families and nurses including anxiety, anger, happiness, sadness, and boredom. Hospitals use a variety of colors through the halls expressing many different moods including white walls for sanitation, happiness and cleanliness; instead of black walls which would make the hospital feel dark and gloomy. Art can speed patients’ recoveries, reduce stress, help retain staff, provide a good healing environment and enhance the hospital surroundings. When art is placed in a medical setting, the wide variety of meanings and purposes are symbolic, and as varied as the many different caregivers and patients. In other words, the art “provides color and warmth, distraction from personal anxiety, levity and lightheartedness, a focus for meditation, a vehicle for escape- and not insignificantly, a way of helping patients and visitors find their way around the sometimes confusing maze of hospital buildings”. There is absolutely no question that the interdisciplinary practice of placing art in a medical environment can have positive benefits for artists, curators, patients, caregivers and medical professionals. The positive effects are varied up to and including someone else’s life.

Personally, I agree that art truly helps patients and caregivers in the medical field and through medicine. Art influences so many people in different ways, day by day. Whether looking at an image on a phone or a painting on a wall, the framework of art is speaking to the individual somehow and is affecting them personally. In January, I volunteered at a hospital close to my home where I helped transport patients throughout the hospital. When I walked through the hospital doors on my first day, I was feeling a bit nervous, yet excited. I knew this service project was going to be a great experience, and would possibly help me with my social skills and with the anxiety I sometimes feel. One day when I was walking through the hospital halls, I noticed an image by the Mother and Nursing Center of a woman holding her baby and smiling. This image of love and affection may inspire a person and may put them in a delighted mood when they notice a mother happily holding her content baby. These types of art may set an uplifting mood to an individual looking at the work.

Another type of art that hung in the wall of the hospital was an image of a red Gerbera daisy. This beautiful, exotic flower placed a more colorful tone in the hospital. After taking a college art class, I know that these types of art will help me take a deeper look into an image or observe a painting more closely. Any individual who is not an art major may observe these types of articles in a different perspective. I can visually look at a piece of art and observe different feelings and moods based off the image provided. Art 201 emphasizes the importance of looking into artwork more deeply, and understanding what the image is trying to say without visible words.

Works of art on display at Cleveland Clinic has an effect on patients on numerous levels, from actuating spaces, to giving a way to escape and diminish worry, to inciting humor, to moving innovativeness and discourse, or essentially to filling a utilitarian need. The work of art is formally coordinated into the environment with the end goal that the visual culture at Cleveland Clinic is a piece of the general vision of giving extraordinary patient consideration in view of the standards of participation, sympathy and development. Therefore, the benefit of art in medicine decreases anxiety and stress within a working and serving environment.

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