Years ago, Diane Brown was undergoing a CT Scan at a hospital – and the experience was frightening. “I wanted to get out of the room,” she says. “The only way out was my imagination. So I imagined a painting going across the ceiling.”
The imagery occupied her mind and brought comfort. Afterward, Brown wanted to do the same for other people – bring peace and comfort through artwork for those undergoing nerve-wracking treatments or tests at a hospital.
A former New York-based gallerist, Brown began asking those she knew if it was possible to put museum-quality artwork in hospitals – at no cost to the hospital.
That became the inspiration behind RxArt, the nonprofit organization she founded 19 years ago.
RxArt works with children’s hospitals to provide visual artwork that will help transform “sterile healthcare facilities into engaging and inspiring environments full of beauty, humor and comfort,” according to its website.
Hospitals typically approach the organization, who then commissions work from contemporary artists – at no cost to the hospital, while still paying the artists for their work.
Brown says RxArt started slowly and has gained significant momentum in the last five years. The nonprofit is working on projects in both the U.S. and Canada.
For Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, RxArt worked with Nicolas Party to create a mural for a 207-foot long corridor that leads to the hospital’s operating department.
“You can imagine that it’s a very stressful corridor,” Brown says. Party’s mural will be installed in 2020.
Artist Rob Pruitt worked with RxArt to transform the radiology department at CHOC Children’s, a children’s hospital in Orange County, CA. Pruitt provided work for the waiting room, CT suite and hallways leading to the ultrasound, x-ray and MRI rooms. The result is a fanciful seascape featuring Pruitt’s iconic pandas frolicking with seagulls, calming blue waters and the CT scanner as a life preserver.
Hospital staff is involved every step of the way for an RxArt project, Brown says. They get to approve the design before it’s fabricated. The site-specific work often takes the form of a wall covering.
“It’s not practical to have an artist paint on the wall of a hospital,” Brown says. “It takes too long and it’s too disruptive. And this way, if something is damaged, we can fix or replace it.”
RxArt’s website lists a handful of testimonials from hospital staff, all praising the positive effects their project has on patients.
“Having art on the ceiling can be very helpful to our young patients,” says Stephanie Faloon, a nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s department of Pediatrics. “A 14-year-old patient can focus on the entire area and let her imagination take her away during a painful procedure. A 3-year-old can create his own pictures using the shapes and colors he sees when he’s getting a lengthy transfusion.”
That’s exactly what Brown intended after undergoing that CT scan years ago. “I’m proud we’re making a difference,” she says.
By Sarah Kloepple