Inside Philanthropy – Who Needs a Museum? Another Foundation Gets Behind Art in Hospitals

Inside Philanthropy — February 15, 2016

Back in November, we looked at how foundations and art donors are realizing that sometimes the best place to display art is somewhere other than a museum. The biggest beneficiary of this trend happens to be hospitals, and it’s easy to see why. As Jessica R. Finch, art program manager at Boston Children’s Hospital, noted, “Studies have shown that artwork helps to reduce stress and boredom, reduces blood pressure and increases white blood cell count, all of which are factors in the healing process.”

That blog post viewed this phenomenon mostly through the lens of the individual donor — a philanthropist that has a private art collection and wants to see it put to good use. In most cases, these individuals have a personal relationship with the recipient institution, and so the gift is a no-brainer.

But then there’s another type of entity at play here — nonprofit organizations committed to transforming healthcare facilities and bringing comfort to hospitalized children through visual art. One such organization is the New York-based RxArt, a recent recipient of a record $1 million donation from the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation.

RxArt’s primary mission is as simple as it is powerful — to create less dreary children’s hospitals. Of course, there are many ways to accomplish this goal. RxArt’s method of choice is displaying what it considers “museum-quality” art. And believe us, the projects are pretty cool. Examples include Keith Haring at the La Rabida Children’s Hospital, Rob Pruitt at the St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, and Keny Scharf at Kings County Hospital.

RxArt aims to complete five projects per year. The Lambert donation will complete a Walead Beshty installation at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center; a floor-to-ceiling installation by Dan Cohen at St. Mary’s Hospital, New York, and site-specific works by Urs Fisher, Sam Falls, and Laura Owens at the Cedar-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center, Los Angeles.

And what about the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation? The New York City-based foundation was created by Rachel Lambert Mellon, a philanthropist who is better known by her nickname, Bunny. She was the heir to the Listerine fortune and subsequently married Paul Mellon, son of the financier Andrew W. Mellon. She passed away in 2014 at the age of 103. Eight months later, in November, an auction of her art collection raised $218 million. 

Her daughter, Eliza Winn Lloyd Moore, passed away in 2008 and plays a critical role in this story. Prior to her passing, Moore began the process of putting high-quality art into hospitals with her good friend Diane Brown, who founded RxArt in 2001. The foundation’s grant will go toward the Eliza Moore Fund, which was established in 2000 to connect contemporary artists and pediatric hospitals throughout the country.

According to Alexander Forger, a director of the Lambert Foundation, the gift to RxArt represents the second by the foundation. The other is in support of a new healing garden at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

  • Mike Scutari