Last year I had a stay at a local hospital. I and the people who came to visit me all found the place hard to navigate (we all got lost more than once), and I found parts of it unfriendly and slightly claustrophobic, and not very warming or healing. They had some nondescript pictures on the walls, and that was the only way I could find to navigate my way out of the maze of white and linoleum.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
The sights, sounds and smells of a hospital can make it a terrifying place, especially for children, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Vital Arts, a British arts organization in charge of introducing art to Britain’s hospitals, had 15 artists collaborate to turn the interior of London Royal Children’s Hospital into as fun and colorful a place as a hospital can be.
Despite being limited by the fact that hospital environments need to be easy to clean, the artists were still able to use vinyl, ceramics, wood and even rugs to liven up these hospitals, each approaching the wards they decorated with their own unique style.
The author Dovas comments that they wish it wasn’t just for kids. It really can be for everyone. Even something as simple as bright colors can be helpful in orienting patients and helping them feel better.
The nurses who helped me all commented about needing to get outside and get away from the sterile white. I think the curtain example illustrates the value of this beautifully:
“A seminal moment for me was when a three-year-old girl stopped crying the moment she saw the curtains, pointing excitedly to the hidden cats and rabbits. That’s when I knew my design had worked”
It is possible to have art and playfulness in sterile hospitals, as part of the healing process. Plus adding some joviality, like staying in the “monkey room” can make a somewhat painful situation seem less heavy.
Maintenance on some of these installations and art pieces may be higher, but if it leads to faster recovery and shorter hospitals stays, which this kind of enrichment has been found to do, then it is a worthy investment.