$1 Million gift to RxArt draws attention to benefits of art in hospitals

posted by – 02/02/16 @ 2:03pm

Artist Kenny Scharf paints a mural in the stairwell of the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatric Units at Kings County Hospital as a part of an RxArt project in September 2013.

This week, ARTnews and the Wall Street Journal reported on a landmark gift that the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation made to RxArt, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping children heal through exposure to visual art. The foundation donated $1 million in honor and memory of Eliza Moore, who helped create RxArt 15 years ago. According to ARTnews, this sizable gift enables the nonprofit to commission at least five major projects each year.

The gift symbolizes a mindset that many hospitals are adopting: that visual art in the hallways and rooms of recovering patients can increase recovery rates, contribute to an overall sense of peace, and serve as a welcome distraction from tiresome recovery processes. Dr. Lisa Harris of Eskenazi Health said it best in her quote to Jacoba Urist for NBC News: “If an art installation gets a patient out of his room or paintings take a person’s mind off their pain and lower their stress levels, the art isn’t just decorative anymore.” For hospital patients, art serves a purpose that it doesn’t have on a gallery wall. Instead of being a focal point on a spot lit white wall for consumption and purchase by visitors and buyers, contemporary art in hospitals serves to brighten and liven up the typically sterile, clinical hallways. Sometimes, the presence of contemporary art even becomes an educational outlet; in that capacity, it is also a distraction from the monotony of stressful health-related discussions.

Urist addresses, too, the obstacle that hospitals face in trying to develop arts programs and build an effective art collection: funding. In the article, the director of Yale University Health, Dr. Paul Genecin, reminds us that “we are in a time of great austerity” and that, in effect, “art projects seem nonessential.” With data confirming the psychological benefits art affords patients, at what point will art be considered a valid expense rather than a frivolous one?

Hopefully, the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation’s gift to RxArt will bring attention to the necessity for arts funding in hospitals. Meanwhile, it’s nice knowing that, for at least 5 locations, RxArt will be able to introduce contemporary art to boost children’s recovery and make their hospital stay a more pleasant one.

For more information on RxArt, visit their website here.

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