Examples of Arts in Healthcare Programs

The visual, literary, and performing arts are flourishing in hospitals, outpatient programs, hospices, nursing and retirement facilities, as well as other healthcare institutions throughout the world. Although only a sampling of hundreds of programs around the United States, the programs described below are intended to give an indication of the impact and breadth of AIH inclusion in modern American medicine.

Children's Hospital and Health Center
San Diego, CA(1)

Since 1993, Children's Hospital and Health Center/San Diego has been developing a model healing arts program that is fully integrated into the pediatric clinical environment. Originally developed in conjunction with a new patient care pavilion, the healing arts program at Children's engages all departments, old and new, creating an environment designed to enrich the experience of patients, families and staff. The program is in concert with Children's mission to restore, sustain, and enhance the health and developmental potential of children.

Currently, Children's has over 300 works of visual art, English- and Spanish-speaking storytellers, numerous musicians, visual artists in residence, a therapeutic harp program and several changing galleries featuring community and children's art. Over the past five years, several healing gardens have been created for patients and their families. Each involved commissioning many artists and designers to transform four lackluster courtyards into whimsical outdoor retreats. These peaceful sanctuaries provide quiet respite for patients, families and staff promoting health and well-being for all who visit Children's.

Connecticut Hospice
Branford, CT(2)

The Arts Program encompasses far more than a narrow 'fine arts' spectrum of activities and often includes what many people consider hobbies. The goal is to enhance the lives of our patients and families artistically and environmentally, giving them the means to express and create in any medium that works for them. The Program includes a full-time director, several part-time artists-in-residence, a music therapist, and volunteer/storytellers. Many patient-care volunteers are multi-talented or multi-faceted, interested in more than just one field, and these hidden talents can be used with surprising and rewarding results. The holistic approach of the hospice emphasizes the meaning of the art piece created by a patient or family member rather than its merit as a striking work of art.

Caregivers are encouraged, when with patients and family members, to ask about their interests, particularly in the fields of the arts and crafts: visual, musical, and performance arts, literature and needlework. When a patient and/or family member wants some art involvement, a referral can be sent to the hospice. An arts volunteer or artist-in-residence or department member will then contact the person. Arts services are available seven days a week In-patient, and for all Home Care patients state-wide.

Cox Medical South Complementary and Alternative Medicine program
Springfield, MO(3)

The arts in healthcare component of Cox's Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) program has received an endowment from the husband of a patient in appreciation for the artists who performed for his late wife during her hospital confinement. Cox Medical South has committed itself to a more humanized environment by building an atrium in which patients and their families may socialize while live music is provided in the background. CAM sponsors theater events and concerts, which also serve as fundraising activities.

The Creative Center: Arts for People with Cancer
New York, NY(4)

The Creative Center offers free workshops in the visual, performing and literary arts to develop a community of support in which women, men, and children with cancer improve the quality of their lives through creativity as they meet the challenges of illness, treatment, and survivorship. The center, founded in 1995, also works within thirteen area hospitals in New York City, and has developed a training institute to teach artists from around the country to work with cancer patients in hospitals. The Center exhibits artworks created by cancer survivors, and works to make the public aware of the depth and diversity of the artistic expression of those who are often viewed as representative of their disease rather than unique individuals.

DrawBridge: An Arts Program for Homeless Children
San Francisco, CA(5)

Within the Bay area, trained staff, volunteers and formerly homeless teens travel to homeless shelters in the Bay area with high quality art supplies to create an affirming environment that will enable the children's stories to unfold through the images they create. The mission of the organization is to give homeless children an environment that fosters their childhood joy, creativity, and exuberance.

Duke University Medical Systems Cultural Services Program
Durham, North Carolina(6)

Established in 1978 Duke University Hospital's Cultural Services Program is one of the older hospital arts programs. The mission of the program is to integrate the arts and humanities into the life of the Medical Center, bringing the healing power of the arts to people who are suffering and to those who care for them, including staff and students.

The program's initial projects were the acquisition of original North Carolina-created visual art for patient rooms; an exhibition program; and performing arts events for patients, visitors, and staff. Additional programming came to include artist residencies by NC and other US poets; artists participating in the design of hospital gardens; and programs especially for employees, including dance workshops, an annual arts and crafts festival, an annual stage production, and the weekly meetings of the Osler Literary Roundtable. Serving 10,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of patients each year, the Medical Center is essentially a small community and Cultural Services is its arts council.

Hasbro Children's Hospital
Providence, RI(7)

Museum on Rounds provides classes for patients who visit the chemotherapy clinic for treatment and other related tests and exams. Over 600 children make over 4200 visits to the clinic each year. Each week art instructors bring a reproduction of a famous work of art to the clinic patients. The instructor engages the children in discussion about the artwork and the children then create their own works of art based on their observations. The projects involve painting, printmaking, sculpture, mask making, collage, etc. Each project is designed to be completed in one session so the children have a work of art to take home with them. Siblings are encouraged to participate in the program and create their own pieces and the instructor involves parents when possible.

Hospital Audiences, Inc.
New York, NY(8)

Hospital Audiences, Inc. (HAI) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1969 to provide access to the arts to cultural isolated New Yorkers. HAI serves people who are physically disabled, mentally retarded or developmentally disabled, sensually impaired, homeless, frail elderly, at risk, participants in substance abuse programs, HIV/AIDS positive, or in correctional institutions. HAI has reached audiences of more than 10 million people at more than 309,200 cultural events (as of 2002). HAI's work is supported by city and state agencies as well as foundations, corporations, and individuals.

HAI provides access to the arts by including people who are isolated by illness, age, or disability from the cultural mainstream in a variety of visual and performing arts experiences. Through the arts, HIA gives people in life-threatening circumstances information that is vital about their health condition and programs and treatments that are important to their survival. This includes bringing the program into facilities for those who are unable to move about.

Intermountain Health Center
Salt Lake City, UT(9)

Intermountain Health Center (IHC) has adopted a 'listening to music during surgery' program, based on their 1996 pilot research study about the effects of music listening on patients scheduled for surgery. Patients in all IHC hospitals in the Salt Lake area who are scheduled for surgery are given a flier with a list of audiotape selections and text explaining that patients who listen to music during their time at the hospital have been found to be more relaxed and experience less pain, and are not bothered by unfamiliar noises around them. Studies at IHC hospitals show that patients who have the music listening experience before, during and after surgery request fewer pain medications and report less anxiety than patients who do not take the option. IHC is exploring expansion into all the arts media to promote a healing atmosphere in their hospitals.

Johns Hopkins University Medical Center
Baltimore, MD(10)

Johns Hopkins provides arts and humanities events to students and staff as well as to the surrounding community. Programs have included dance and music performances; a Sunday concert series; art exhibits; performances by faculty and students; humanities lectures, seminars, and symposia; and a video library.

Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University
Washington, DC(11)

The arts in healthcare program was established at the Lombardi Cancer Center in 1990 based on the model developed at the National Institutes of Health at the Clinical Center in 1984. The Clinical Center program was mandated by a need to humanize the 12-story addition of clinics built in the cold, glass and severe lines that represented the height of modernism in architecture. Though somewhat different in design, the Lombardi Cancer Center's clean lines of cast concrete had become cluttered with contemporary institutional furniture and signage redundancy. Changes in furnishings to organic materials and additions of sculpture, fountains and local original art transformed the space into a welcoming environment. New colors and careful placement of signage have empowered the patients to find their way without having to ask for directions.

Concerning donor recognition, all portraits and plaques were removed and replaced by a two-story atrium wall containing a mosaic abstraction of the Potomac River with donor names reflected as white ripples on the water.

Lombardi's arts and humanities programs have grown to include painting, sculpture, journaling, quilting, movement, singing, and performance music for patients and families, staff and medical students. The doctors and fellows have an art show of their work once a year, as do the medical students.

Mayo Clinic - CJ Kennedy
Scottsdale, AZ(12)

Medical students and patients at the Mayo Clinic developed a traveling theatre piece aimed at increasing empathetic awareness about the experience of healthcare from the patient's perspective. "The Doctor Will See You Now", a musical drama performed by Arizona State University students and community actors with disabilities, strives to enhance the patient-caregiver relationship through improved communication via live dramatization. This Mayo-commissioned original musical was funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, with lyrics by Isaiah Sheffer and music by Bobby Paul. It is the outgrowth of a partnership between Mayo Center for Humanities in Medicine and Arizona State University College of Fine Arts.

National Institute of Art & Disabilities
Richmond, CA(13)

The mission of the National Institute of Art and Disabilities is to provide an art environment for people with developmental disabilities that promotes creative expression, independence, dignity, and community integration. The Institute serves up to fifty adults each day with training in painting, printmaking, sculpture, textiles, decorative arts and more. Their artwork is actively promoted through an exhibitions program.

Planetree Model(14)

The Planetree model for healthcare, which calls for a patient-centered approach to healthcare planning and design includes the arts in its philosophy as 'Nutrition for the Soul.' Music, storytellers, clowns, and funny movies create an atmosphere of serenity and playfulness in the thirty-eight hospitals that have adopted the Planetree model. Artwork in patients' rooms, treatment areas, and on art carts add to the ambience. Volunteers work with patients who would like to create their own art, while involvement from artists, musicians, poets and storytellers from the local community help to expand the boundaries of the healing process.

Shands Hospital: Arts-in-Medicine Program University of Florida in Gainesville(15)

Shands Hospital created an Artists-in-Residence program in 1991 for the pediatric oncology clinic. The program spread rapidly to other units and by 1997, there were fourteen visual, literary, and performance artists in the facility working four to twenty hours each per week. On a given day you might find musicians strolling the corridors or a dancer dancing with a child in her room. The atrium of the hospital contains Healing Walls, comprised of ceramic tiles on which patients have painted their personal expressions of feelings associated with their illness. The pediatric oncology unit is one in which Dr. Graham-Pole 'never allowed the seriousness of his duties and responsibilities to compromise his inherent sense of humor and sensitivity'. Dr Graham-Pole says that the AIH program has brought creativity to his own life. The release of human creative expression among children and adults in various stages of pain and physical ravage is a unique tool to be used alongside the medicines and treatments that accompany serious illness(16).

Stanford University Medical Center Hospital and Clinics
Stanford CA(17)

Under the auspices of the Art Commission, the hospital's art collection comprises over five hundred pieces of fine art and sixteen hundred posters. The collection is an array of contemporary art including paintings, photographs, monotypes, lithographs, and sculptures. The art enhances and humanizes the hospital environment for patients, families, staff, and the community. Art for Health brings an artist to the bedside with a variety of materials for patients to create their own art as a way to relieve stress and lift the spirit. Art for Health sessions are held in patient rooms or in support group situations. The coordinators use a wide variety of art materials such as paint, pastels, collages, and clay.

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital Creative Arts Program
Cleveland, OH(18)

The Creative Arts Program, begun in 1987, promotes the family-centered care philosophy of Rainbow. Both art therapy and music therapy reinforce the value of family interaction and support the health needs of the child's mind and body. Patients may be referred by the healthcare team or families may request individual sessions. The program offers a variety of interventions suitable for all age groups from newborn babies to teenagers. Families of patients are encouraged to join in during the sessions.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Project Art
Iowa City, Iowa(19)

With funding from the construction budget of a new hospital building in 1976, an art acquisition program was established to place original art in public areas. Bolstered by the positive response from patients, visitors and staff to the increased presence of visual arts, a feasibility study was conducted in 1977 to consider formalizing the art program. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics initiated Project Art the following year, with monthly art exhibits and leasing of art for public areas. Performing arts events and a traveling art cart and studio art sessions for patients were introduced later. The permanent collection now numbers over 1,400 original works of art and 3,500 reproductions. Rotating exhibitions representing Iowa and Midwest artists cycle through five hospital and clinic locations.

University of Massachusetts Medical School, Program in Medical Humanities and the Arts in Health Care
Worcester, MA(20)

This program offers a variety of classes and workshops to advance education and training of healthcare practitioners, medical and nursing students, patients and family members who are dealing with chronic and life-limiting illness, death and bereavement. Drawing on the visual, literary, and performing arts, expressive therapies, literature, spiritual values, and cultural beliefs, educational opportunities are aimed at enabling people to build the foundations for enhanced skill and comfort with palliative care, loss, and end-of-life issues.

University of Michigan Health System Gifts of Art
Ann Arbor, MI(21)

Established 1987, Gifts of Art provides artistic and aesthetic opportunities for the patients, visitors and staff. Nine art galleries each mount six different shows a year as well as an employee show. In partnership with the University of Michigan School of Music, free weekly public performances are held in the main lobby year round. Other music programs include daily piano performances in the lobby provided by volunteers; a bedside music practitioner and several interns from the Music for Healing and Transition Program; and bedside musicians who visit the burn unit, ICUs, and other patient units, including the neonatal intensive care. Doctors, nurses, staff and students in the hospitals and related life sciences departments at the University participate in the Life Sciences Orchestra. Gifts of Art operates art carts in both the adult and childrens hospitals, allowing patients to select the artwork for their rooms.

University of Washington Medical Center Art Program
Seattle, WA(22)

University of Washington Medical Center Art Program Seattle, WA (22)

Since 1986, the University of Washington Medical Center has presented an Art Program for the benefit and enjoyment of our community of patients, visitors, faculty and staff.

The UWMC Art Program includes:

  • A permanent art collection of over 1200 art works, including:
    • The Contemporary NW Fine Art Collection
    • The International Textile Collection
  • 2 Galleries that feature special projects and exhibitions
  • Live music performances
  • Arts in Healing, a program that offers weekly hands-on art groups and bedside visits for patients, family members, and caregivers

The UWMC Art Program was built on the beliefs that art:

  • Helps create a rejuvenating and respectful environment that nurtures the entire community
  • Provides visual and cultural bridges to acknowledge and honor our diverse population
  • References the full range of human emotions and experiences that remind us we are not alone
  • Symbolizes and reinforces the spirit of innovation, humanity, and revelation that is vital in teaching, medical research, and patient care
  • Contributes to healing by providing a stimulating link to the world outside, and to the life force within

Primary funding for the UWMC Art Program is provided by the UWMC Service League, a nonprofit organization that raises money for patient services.

University of Washington Medical Center
UWMC Art Program website: http://www.uwmedicine.org/uw-medical-center/patient-resources/art-program/ Art Program Manager: Karen Neuhard-Forsythe, UWMC Art, Program, Box 356144, Seattle, WA 98195-6144

Vanderbilt University Medical Center Cultural Enrichment
Nashville, TN(23)

The Cultural Enrichment program is responsible for the art works and sculpture gardens throughout the hospital. In addition, the program co-sponsors a quarterly art forum to discuss the use of art in public spaces. The Art Cart with a variety of art supplies and materials is wheeled up and down hospital corridors for the purpose of involving patients and their families in creative activities. Journal Painting is a program offered to patients to help them express their thoughts through writing, watercolors, or whatever medium they choose. The Celtic Commodores offer Irish music to patients, families, and staff. A harpist-in-residence can be found in various units of the hospital, and strolling musicians visit patient rooms. Poetry Place displays poems, often thematic or seasonal, which offer patients and families an opportunity to lose themselves in the beauty of healing words.

The Vanderbilt University Medical School has developed 'Art for Children in Hospitals,' in which medical students earn credits as they work individually on artistic projects with hospitalized children. During an 8-week period, artists help students select projects to work with pediatric patients. This experience, often the first actual contact with a patient, offers the medical student a chance to see how the arts can empower a child from whom almost all control has been taken.

WVSA arts connection
Washington, DC(24)

WVSA arts connection (formerly Washington Very Special Arts) has arts-in-healthcare programs in five areas: ART is the heART; Arts for Children in Hospitals; WVSA/VA Artist-in-Residence; and WVSA Hospital Arts Project for Children. The ART is the heART program began in 1999 in response to the increasing numbers of children receiving healthcare services in the home. In partnership with the Visiting Nurse Association, this program helps children cope more effectively with illness, disability, and dying. Artists are carefully selected and trained to serve in an internship program. In addition to scheduled visits to the home or hospice, artists may work with other family members, thereby caring for the caregiver. This program has been replicated in national and international sites.

The Arts for Children in Hospitals program was developed with Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1990 in order to help medical students maintain the sensitivity that is essential for the working with children and families. In the credited course, medical students work alongside artists who facilitate arts activities with hospitalized children. The course has been replicated through the VSA affiliate network in other medical schools in the nation.

The WVSA/VA Artist-in-Residence program, begun in 1999 at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, provides visual arts activities for veterans in a post-traumatic stress disorder group and an outpatient psychiatric group. A weekly music session is provided in the center's rehabilitation and long-term center. The veterans' artwork is shown annually at WVSA's ARTiculate Gallery.

The Hospital Arts Project for Children, begun in 2002, trains carefully selected visual artists, musicians, dancers, storytellers, and poets to provide classes to hospitalized children and their families.

Appendix A References

  • Intermountain Healthcare. Pratt RR: Listening to music during surgery. A program of Intermountain Health. IJAM 6(1): 21-30, 1999. Web site: http://www.ihc.com

  • Johns Hopkins Web site currently unavailable.

  • Graham-Pole J, Rockwood Lane M, Kitakis ML, & Stacpoole L: Creating an arts program in an academic setting. IJAM 3(2): 17-25, 1994.

  • University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital Creative Arts Program office. RB&C Nursing Office, University Hospitals of Cleveland, 11100 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106-6001.