Monday, 7 April 2014

THE HEALING POTENTIAL OF ART

MUSEUM MONDAYS

BY: BRITTNEY SPROULE

Hello all! Now that I am all caught up with the latest Game of Thrones episode, it's high time for some Museum Monday action. Don't worry, you're getting off easy this Monday with a nice short post! I figured I had to balance things out on account of my encyclopedia-sized Degenerate Art post last Monday (I just couldn't help myself).

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Point taken Spiderman.

This week I'd like to chat about how art --music, visual arts, and beyond --is used for healing both body and mind. I suppose this post will be focused a bit more on the use of artworks rather than a specific museum but, hey! Do museums and art galleries not concern themselves with the usage of art?

Interactive LED light installation by the UK's Jason Bruges Studio,
Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, England.

Close up of Jason Bruges installation

While I am certainly no expert on the subject, I do know that the exploration of the therapeutic, rehabilitative, and overall healing potential of art (again, form music to visual arts) has lead to whole new fields of academic, scientific,  psychological, and philosophical study and research--and rightly so! During my undergraduate studies in music, I came across a few people who were very interested in pursuing careers music therapy, and at really wonderful academic institutions to boot. Oddly enough (and it seems silly to me now), the thought never occurred to me that similar ties existed between visual arts and healthcare. Of course!

Abstract mural by Bridget Riley St Mary's hospital in Paddington, UK

It appears that this is also a concept being explored more and more by various healthcare institutions around the world. This could mean getting artists, staff, volunteers, or even patients to paint murals on the interior of hospital hallways, establishing sculpture gardens outside of hospitals, hospitals exhibiting artworks from arts institutions like the V&A, or perhaps even investing in their very own art collections.

In my memory, any attention grabbing hospital artwork I have seen (you know, apart from than drab, stock waiting room images that have likely been hanging in their spot since the early 1900's...) has usually been in children's hospitals. While I fully support artsy children's hospital settings, what about adults? We like having beautiful, inspiring things to look at too! Anything to make a hospital visit a little less unnerving and a little more pleasant definitely gets my vote. Whether its a short term visit, or long term. And I'm sure the hospital staff wouldn't mind having something a little more inspiring to look at during their long shifts either.

Original Jeff Koons mural on a CT scanner
Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital, Chicago, IL.

Apart from adding some excitement to standard hospital d├ęcor, do you agree that arts can be effective in healing processes, whether the healing takes place at an emotional, physical, or mental level (or all of the above)? Do you disagree? Have you had any personal experiences where art of some form has had an effect on how you deal with a painful situation or problem (feel free to share your experiences if you'd like, but of course I understand that this personal question may be best served by solo reflection rather than public comment).

One question I have is a little less philosophical, but I think relevant nonetheless - I wonder what kind of security hospitals have on their collections/individual works or installations. For example, the Koons above or some of the multi-million dollar hospital art collections that house very valuable works by artists like Andy Warhol. I also would be very interested to know the criteria different hospitals have for choosing or commissioning the artworks they display. It makes sense that hospitals would be interested in artworks that inspire soothing, calming, pleasant feelings and associations to keep visitors/patients content, but how would one judge this?

"School of Puffer Fish" by Robert Israel,
Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD.

I will leave you with the above points to ponder, and also this adorable puffer fish installation. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!  

4 comments:

  1. Too bad Spiderman didn't read your post last week on Degenerate Art; he was really missing out.

    This week's post is another excellent Museum Monday contribution that wonderfully steps outside of the museum -- or looks at other spaces as possible museums. When you ask whether art can be part of the healing process, I say absolutely -- and I think that, importantly, artwork in hospitals can also help to minimize the discomfort and fear surrounding hospital spaces generally. This is important not only for patients, but also for visiting families or friends. Being in an environment that does not induce fear is very significant (and a huge step forward) in the whole process of hospitalization.

    Regarding your question about security, I would think that a hospital would be an appropriate space for these public art style installations, because (ideally) hospitals already should have comprehensive security measures in place -- for all kinds of threats, including natural disasters, threatening intruders, and the like. Heck, it's already got museum-level security!

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  2. Thanks for your comment Katherine :) I agree with you, I think art can definitely be part of the human healing process. How many of us like to listen to our favourite playlist after a long or difficult day? Whether its painting, or listening/making music as an emotional release or simply experiencing existing art forms to stimulate and inspire healing, I think this is a very important avenue to be explored. Especially in healthcare institutions, where a positive mind set/attitude, whether inspired by art or otherwise, is so important in keeping us motivated to face difficult health issues.

    Good point about the security, I suppose you're right in terms of hospitals having appropriate existing security and disaster measures in place. Somewhat relatedly, I wonder how hospitals and other such institutions with large art collections take care of them - do they have full time curators and/or collections managers? I'd imagine they'd have to have someone at some point come and evaluate/care for their collection. Do I sense future museum professional employment opportunities here? Maybe ;)

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  3. I think art is very effective as a theraputic tool. I work in mental health and we have volunteers come in almost everyday and take patients to our art room. They are shown how to utilize art as a tool for expression. A lot of patients discover a talent they didn't know they had, or at the very least a safe outlet to describe and discuss their feelings. Weve had a couple of showcases to show off the patients works. Their art is hung in the hallways as well.

    Great post Britt :)

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    1. Thanks for checking it out Meg :) I thought of you when I was writing it. I remember you telling me about the CD the Dube Center was putting together. Definitely a healthier way for patients to spend their time, i.e. focusing on their creativity as an outlet.
      As a kid, I always liked driving by St. Paul's hospital in Saskatoon and seeing the murals painted on the outside concrete fence (if it's even still there). Wish they would do similar things on the inside, as it would definitely brighten the place up a bit. That would be a cool city project, for any city (and I'm sure some have done so) to commission local artists/artworks or request donations of works for health care centers. Anything to quash the ominous fear and negative stigmas associated with hospital visits would definitely be an improvement.

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