Bringing Art into Clinical Settings

by jparadisi

Hang Your Art Here by jparadisi

Nurses and artists share many characteristics. Donations of time and skills are perhaps the most common.

Nurses donate time by volunteering at health screenings, or speaking about risk prevention at health fairs. Artists often donate artwork to local charity fundraisers, or loan work for exhibition in a clinic or hospital lobby.

Art in the clinical setting may offer a sense of relaxation, joy, or even help to redirect the focus away from an unexpected diagnosis for a patient or a loved one — even if it’s just for a few minutes.

A reader asked about bringing art into clinical settings. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when either asking for a donation, or curating a hospital or clinic art exhibition on a small budget:

  • All blank walls are not created equal: Hang art away from direct sunlight, which fades the inks or paint, and damages works on paper like drawings or photography. Walls in areas of high humidity are also a poor choice for hanging art.
  • Ensure the artwork is secure: This is especially important when the artwork is borrowed. Professional galleries insure artwork while it is in their possession, but your clinic or hospital probably does not. Artwork should be under direct observation at all times, and secured behind locked doors when not. I met an artist whose painting was stolen from a lobby wall, creating an uncomfortable situation for both the artist and the clinic.
  • If the work is for sale, have interested parties contact the artist directly: Don’t get involved in the sales transactions.
  • Get permission to use the artists’ names and photographs of their artwork: This is useful for promoting the exhibit hosted by your department or clinic in the hospital newsletter and local press releases.
  • Disrespectfully handling artwork is a quick way to lose artist support: Framing is expensive. Protect the corners and edges from dings. Don’t stack paintings or photographs on top of each other when preparing to hang or taking down an exhibit. Secure art from falls. If necessary, provide signs asking viewers to refrain from touching the art.
  • Showcase a particular artist or stage a group show: Choosing work related by themes, for example, photography, still life, or about a specific cancer, is another idea. Include statements written by the artist describing their inspiration. Often the artists will volunteer to hang the shows, and provide labels for the work if you don’t know where to start. Art therapists are good resources for creating exhibitions too.
  • Thank your artists: When artists donate artwork they can only deduct the cost of the materials, not the price the work sold for, from their taxes, so a proper thank you is crucial. An appreciated thank you includes the name of the work, the buyer’s name and contact information (with the buyer’s permission) so the artist has an opportunity to connect with a potential collector, and the price the piece sold for. Consider hosting a reception for the artists and buyers to meet.