“A Guide to Evidence-Based Art” was published in 2008. In ten years, a lot of new data, new questions, and new ideas have made it clear that the guide must be updated. The consequences are real.
This guide acts as a sort of specification system for hospital systems and architects who seek qualified professional art consultants to outfit their new spaces with healing art programs. The guide does not set rules, but it is still treated as a sort of rule-book, entirely contrary to the first principle of evidence-based design.
Kirk Hamilton, who helped to establish and clarify the field of evidence-based design, has stated:
There is … an understandable fear that evidence-based design can lead to “cookbook” architecture [and design], suggesting a pattern of dull and repetitious buildings stamped from the same mold of a bureaucratic prescription. The world of evidence-based design, however, lives closer to the real world of scientific research, with its continuous search for the verifiable. Evidence-based design is not static, and does not easily conform to fixed regulations that may soon be rendered ineffective by the steady stream of newly reported results.*
Before an art consultant has been identified, art programs are often established by non-arts professionals by quoting uncritically what are taken to be best practices from the guide. As a result, art programs are often narrowly defined before they have been fully imagined.
In the next installment, we will explore problems of definition: what is art?
But first, here are the most quoted “rules” for evidence-based art. If you happen to be an artist or an arts professional, please hold on to your hats. I know we can come up with better solutions than this, as useful as this list of subjects may be to start.
calm or nonturbulent water
visual depth or open foreground
trees with broad canopy
positive cultural artifacts (e.g., barns and older houses)
healthy and fresh
gardens with open foreground
emotionally positive faces
Against that grain, please enjoy a few more words from Kirk Hamilton: “Good healthcare projects feature exceptional architecture [and design] that serves their purpose well, and it contains the magic of the human spirit, infused with the sacred, the inspired, the grand, the intimate, the full richness of life.”
*Hamilton, Kirk. “The Four Levels of Evidence Based Practice.” Healthcare Design. November 1, 2003.