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Ohio Healthcare Art Program

Currents Magazine



Visitors to the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus are entranced with Jennifer Steinkamp’s Mike Kelley 1, a video installation of a changing tree. (Photograph courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Foundation)

Healing art displayed at Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth November Family Health Center

“We firmly believe that fine art is good medicine,” explained Jennifer Finkel, curator for the Cleveland Clinic Art Program, Arts & Medicine Institute. The healing power of art has been well documented. According to the 2009 State of the Field Report: Arts in Healthcare, “Studies have proven integrating the arts into healthcare settings helps to cultivate a healing environment, support the physical, mental, and emotional recovery of patients, communicate health and recovery information, and foster a positive environment for caregivers that reduces stress and improves workplace satisfaction.”


The November Center’s Metroparks mural reminds patients that nature’s there to help them heal.
(Photograph by Sarah Jaquay)

The report proceeds to document studies showing art yields economic benefits: shorter hospital stays, less medication and fewer complications. Northeast Ohioans who find themselves in hospitals or ambulatory care facilities will also find rich art collections to create a positive distraction from their illnesses or treatment. Finkel and Lin Swensson, a healthcare art consultant at MetroHealth System retained for its new November Family Health Center in Middleburg Heights, explained art in healthcare settings can be a positive distraction and can act as a way~finding mechanism for patients, visitors and staff.

On Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, which stretches for city blocks, the way-finding function can mean saving time and make easier connections with friends and loved ones. Finkel said the Clinic’s collection contains 5,000 works spread throughout its main campus, hospitals, family health centers and interContinental Cleveland Hotels. Many main campus visitors have been entranced by Jenmfer Steinkamp’s Mike Kelley 1, a video installation of a tree that transforms through the seasons. Finkel said the Clinic has collected art for 91 years in part because “The founders realized the benefits of arts in the healing process.” Richard Mayer, MetroHealth’s director of construction management added, “Over 175 years, you [MetroHealth] start to collect some incredible pieces.”

Some works are donated by artists and satisfied patients. But there are organizing principles around which hospitals and outpatient facilities present their collections. Finkel says she strives to display works that “can take you away or provide levity.” When choosing pieces for a specific location, Finkel asks, “Who’s coming here? How long are they waiting? And what procedures or tests are they waiting for?” She also looks for diversity of artists and subject matter.

Swensson summarizes her criteria as the “Three Ps – purpose, place and position.” The purpose refers to art following function. “What’s appropriate for a patient’s room is going to be different than what works in the lobby.” When November Center visitors enter the atrium, they’re struck by the colorful, floral murals created by Cleveland artist Hector Vega. MetroHealth commissioned the murals to honor Mort and Iris November, major donors to this ambulatory care facility. Place relates to the type of care being delivered and position literally means where the art is on the walls, ceiling or floor. “In one of the rehabilitation hospitals I worked in, the building code required artwork to be seven inches above the handrails.” So if a patient falls, art won’t add to the problem. The November Center has stunning photographic murals of Cleveland icons and the Metroparks to remind patients what’s waiting to be enjoyed when they return to health. Interestingly both the Clinic and MetroHealth collections include works by renowned artist Julian Stanczak who lives in Seven Hills. Stanczak’s first major show in New York in 1964, Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings, initiated the term “op art” – short for optical art. Fortunately no one needs to be sick to explore these amazing collections.

Finkel says the Clinic offers free audio tours in English, Spanish and Arabic as well as docent-led tours twice a week. For more information, visit and

– reprinted courtesy of Currents magazine

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