Art to lift the Spirits of the Sick / by Jeannine Cook

I have known for many a long year how important it is to have art along the walls of hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices, but just recently, on a personal basis, I have had that theoretical knowledge made vividly real. Walking along the corridors of the local Hospice, it was indeed uplifting and calming to see art on the wall, of all types but all powerful enough to be appreciated.

Many years ago, I was advocating at our local hospital that their building enlargement process should include original artwork on the walls, a message initially received with reticence. However, artwork was soon to be seen throughout the large facilities, and I was lucky enough to have my work purchased as well. I had a vivid affirmation of what art could do because, soon after, a friend phoned me to say that he had had to make a 3 a.m. emergency visit to the ICU... one of my paintings was hanging on the wall opposite the elevator door on the ICU floor. "I can't tell you," he continued", how calming and helpful it was to see your work on that wall, in the midst of my anxiety." It was one of the best compliments I have ever received.

Now, there are countless studies which clearly demonstrate how valuable art can be in medical environments. Last year, Dr. Lee Eliot Major was writing in the UK Daily Telegraph about work done in Italy and in the wonderful children's hospital at Great Ormond Street, London. This autumn, a long article in the Chicago Tribune by Joanna Broder addressed the help given by getting sick children immersed in creating art through the Snow City Foundation. The Dallas Morning News ran a long article in October this year about all the research done, since the 1960s, on what kinds of art help people heal better in a hospital situation - no surprise that more easily "understandable" art, like reasonably realistic landscapes, for instance, was more accepted than abstract art which required perhaps an effort for a sick person to relate to...

Extrapolating from medical environments to one's daily environment, it would seem that the message for us all is - have art on your walls that lifts your spirits, calms you, interests you and, in general, enhances your daily life. Not such a bad prescription!