How hospitals decorate their facilities: It's an art, not a science

The right art sends a message, consultants say

Topics: Patient Experience, Quality, Performance Improvement, Finance

March 12, 2013

Some of the nation's newest hospital buildings feature hundreds of pieces of artwork, and the Sacramento Bee examines the strategies—and "art consultants"—behind this emerging trend.

Facility leaders may be seeking "something that's really distinctive" to hang on their walls, says art consultant Beth Jones, who has done more than 100 projects for Kaiser Permanente over the years. "Not just something that's a pretty picture."

In those cases, consultants like Jones and Kira Stewart of Sacramento-based Art Consulting Services can serve as go-betweens, purchasing art at wholesale and bringing in pieces for the hospitals to review. For large projects, the final selections are sometimes made by a committee of hospital staff, physicians, interior designers, and project architects.

The consultants also incorporate a range of factors, from hospitals' floor plans to community influences, to try and make tailored recommendations. For example, when consulting on Marysville, Calif.-based Rideout Cancer Center, Stewart's team reviewed patient flow, the building's existing color schemes, and even the placement of wall-mounted TVs. Because Rideout officials requested that the artwork feature agriculture—the dominant local industry—Stewart installed massive almond blossoms, made from metal, silk and resin tubing. The seven-by-10-feet blossoms hang in the main chemotherapy infusion room

"Our stuff has to play well with the brand, all of the existing elements in the space, and communicate and achieve what they're asking us to do with their company," Stewart explained to the Bee. She added that her corporate clients may "spend anywhere from $1 to $6 per square foot of construction space on the artwork."

Stewart's team has been hired to acquire 360 pieces of art for the 2014 opening of the $750 million Anderson Lucchetti Women's and Children's Center at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. Meanwhile, Jones and her colleagues are parsing through thousands of options for the new, 700,000-square-foot Kaiser Permanente San Leandro Medical Center, which may need as many as 700 pieces of art (Heenan, Sacramento Bee, 3/10).

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