Our topic – the role of healing art design in healthcare settings, and in service of public health – falls squarely between two related fields that need to acknowledge and address one another.
The practitioners and champions of Arts in Health have rallied on the strength of incontrovertible evidence of the good that the arts do in improving health outcomes, health education, health communication, and creating healthy communities. The National Organization for Arts in Health has undertaken the professionalization of the field aside from the clinical practices of arts therapy, which have enjoyed academic accountability for some time.
Meanwhile, in the world of architecture and design, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, design decisions in healthcare spaces are increasingly based on best evidence, and practitioners are challenged to add to the knowledge base by conducting and publishing research on design interventions. Also, health outcomes are also seen as a component of design for public spaces.
However, Architecture & Design professionals need better insights into art design. I’ve argued that the knowledge concerning art design in healthcare setting is speculative and provisional. That’s only the first potential point of contact between these two fields.
Meanwhile, Arts in Health professionals often are not invited to participate in the business of healthcare design. Here decisions are made in the context of expensive building and renovation projects directed by hospital administrators, project managers, architects, contractors, and builders who – unless instructed otherwise – will budget the visual art programs as a component of an interior design program alongside furnishings and finishes. Unless an Arts in Health officer at the hospital can bring the collection under her management, the paintings, photographs, and sculptures are left entirely in the care of the office of facilities management.
This assumes that the hospital has understood the value of arts in health and funded a staff position to direct those many potential programs.
We will explore the further implications of drawing these two fields together, especially the activation of visual art programs as an added value for patients, staff, and arts in health programming.