Source: Hartford Courant
By Cara Rosner, October 5, 2015
New Haven is home to world-class galleries replete with famous works, but one of its largest and most inspiring art collections is displayed in a place that may surprise some: Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Yale New Haven Health, which includes the hospital’s two campuses and Smilow Cancer Hospital, is home to 750 pieces of art. Each is meant to bring some joy into the lives of patients, family members and staff coping with circumstances that can be stressful.
“It definitely helps with the overall feel, both for the patient, family members and hospital staff,” said C. Bradford Bevers, executive director for facilities, design and construction management for Yale New Haven Health System.
In the past 10 to 15 years in particular, a growing amount of research has shown art can relieve stress and play a beneficial role in the healing process, he said. Yale New Haven Health System budgets money in almost every project it undertakes to continue providing art in public spaces, he said.
National Institutes of Health research has shown that art can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve well-being and help individuals fight infection. Studies have found that certain types of art, including music, release substances in the brain that act as natural painkillers.
At Yale-New Haven Hospital and Smilow, the public art — primarily created by local, state and regional artists — takes many different forms and the group that chooses the pieces placed much emphasis on unique and meaningful pieces. Artwork was then strategically placed at the hospital. Pre-treatment areas, for example, often feature sweeping landscapes intended to invoke feelings of calm. Post-operative areas offer artwork that depicts the community, assuring patients that they are close to home and family.
“Our hope in this art program is to allow someone to come in, find a beautiful work of art, and exhale — and then begin to sort of gain their composure and build their strength to move on to what it is they’re about to face that day,” Rosalyn Cama, Smilow’s art program consultant says in the “Art of Healing” video featured on Smilow’s website.
The art includes paintings, mosaics, sculptures and a series of quilts, among other media. One unique first-floor piece is a totem for which the artist traveled the world and put together pieces of things that women use in their daily lives in various cultures. Seventh-floor pediatric areas feature kid-friendly art.
Some pieces, such as a ceramic mosaic, offer benches where patients, family and staff can sit with a piece of art and reflect. Staff say it is not unusual to see visitors using their cellphones to take pictures of the art.
“I think any experience that enriches human beings’ feelings — that soul quality that we all have — can enrich the healing experience,” artist Cornelia Kavanagh said in the “Art of Healing” video. Her sculpture, “Wing Form,” can be interpreted as a whale tail, a heart, or “anything somebody wants it to be.”
Artist Sandy Cameron said she hopes patients and their families can feel how much thought and love went into the art selection.
“The hospital has done an enormous amount to create an environment that’s beautiful and calming to the patients,” she said.
Many view Smilow’s “Healing Garden,” for instance, as a work of art. The outdoor garden on the seventh floor of the cancer hospital provides a serene haven for patients, families, staff and others. It has trees, shrubs, plants, a small stream and benches where visitors can sit and enjoy the quiet. During the winter, the garden’s stone floor is heated to melt snow so patients can still enjoy the peaceful outdoor space.
Staff members frequently hear from patients and their families that the garden offers a source of respite during an otherwise stressful time, Bevers said.
Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, physician-in-chief, said in the video interview that “… patients who feel supported, patients who feel nutured … are more likely to make the right decisions about their treatment, to become more involved in their therapy.”
Music also is an important aspect of the art offered throughout Yale New Haven Health System, Bevers said. Musical performances take place throughout the campuses, and Smilow’s lobby features a piano that can both play itself and be played by a pianist.
The hospital system began buying art in late 2008 and 2009, when the recession was in full swing. Many artists told hospital officials that selling art to the hospital allowed them to stay in business as artists during the challenging economy, Bevers said.
“We’re contacted by artists all the time wanting to be displayed,” he said, and artwork has to meet certain criteria to be considered. “It has to fall within the parameters of what we want to see in artwork that adds to the healing environment.”
Originally, the artwork was concentrated largely within Smilow but now there is a sizable display throughout both Yale-New Haven Hospital campuses as well, he said.
Feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Bevers said. “It’s been well-received by staff and patients and family members alike.”
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