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Nobody likes going to hospitals. The muted colors, the sterile smells, everybody looks like they wish they were somewhere else. And that’s just in the lobbies. Going into the actual treatment rooms where patients are surrounded by huge and frightening looking machines is even worse. Ten years ago, Diane Brown had a CT scan that frightened her so much she decided to do something. “I was on a gurney, strapped in with an IV in my arm, and the only way I could get out was in my imagination,” she says. “I just spontaneously imagined a painting going up the side wall and across the ceiling, and I really went into that painting. And [then] the scan was over and I felt like I hadn’t been there. It was amazing, so I thought, ‘I want to do that for other people.’” And that is exactly what Diane Brown is doing with the non-profit organization she founded, RxArt.
RxArt places original fine art in patient, procedure, and examination rooms of children’s healthcare facilities. Their mission is to improve otherwise sterile environments through contemporary art, promoting healing, and inspiring hope in patients, families, and staff. RxArt promotes artistic expression and awareness through the challenging task of curating installations in hospital settings and engages patients with contemporary art in even the most hostile of environments.
RxArt works with healthcare staff and art professionals to consider the most appropriate artwork for specific settings. It may be commissioned or they may purchase existing pieces. The collection contains works by artists who are household names and whose work is exhibited in museums worldwide including Jeff Koons, William Wegman, Sol LeWitt, Mary Heilmann and Frank Stella.
The art comes at no cost to the institutions, but even so, Brown says it was initially difficult to get hospitals to participate. It was a new idea but eventually one hospital accepted. RxArt has so far completed 18 projects and is currently working on new projects in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, California and New York. In Boston, artist John Monti covered the children’s hospital walls with flower-like 3-D patterns. In Oak Lawn, Ill. Jeff Koons’ iconic characters found a permanent home on a CT Scanner and surrounding exam room in the hospital’s radiology department. And in New York, artist Jason Middlebrook has painted a glorious array of flowers and seeds in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Hardly any of us can deny the uplifting effect looking at a beautiful piece of art can have. Joan Sorich, the unit’s nurse manager, recalls one of the nurses telling her that the paintings just made her feel happy. But for Sorich, the paintings are also a part of the healing process.
“We get so close to the patients and their families, it really tugs at you,” she says, “but I think having the [paintings] here … really represents our mission: life giving. We try to help people heal and not only physically and physiologically heal and recover, but also emotionally, spiritually — everything. I think the paintings touch on so many parts for people.”
In addition to their work in hospitals, RxArt publishes a coloring book, Between the Lines, which they distribute in their partner health facilities. It is also available for purchase and all proceeds go to RxArt and their projects.
To learn more visit: http://www.rxart.net/