How art installations in hospitals support the wellbeing of patients and local creatives

This story is supported by Parkview Health.
Apart from a few instances, like the arrival of a newborn, being in a hospital doesn’t usually evoke positive feelings. But a team at Parkview Health is working hard to reframe those experiences through the power of art, crafted by local talent. 

These efforts are not new to the health system, but Parkview has recently deepened its commitment to bringing more art to its facilities across the region.

Theoplis Smith III, known to the community as Phresh Laundry, understood the vision for Parkview Southwest and helped bring the facility to life through his artwork.Parkview Kosciusko Hospital opened last month and features commissioned works from area artists handpicked by Parkview team members. During the construction of the hospital in 2022, Parkview asked area photographers to submit their work. The selected artists had their work framed and installed in the new hospital. This is just the latest in Parkview’s ongoing commitment to creating a vibrant work environment and an uplifting place for healing.

Sarah Epple is an interior designer for Parkview’s Planning, Design and Construction department. She’s been with Parkview for 20 years and as part of her job, she finds and commissions artwork to be placed strategically around the network.

She says she finds fulfillment in searching for artists or art that might have been previously under the radar. She doesn’t do it alone though. Epple and the Parkview team work with local partners such as Northside Galleries, Frame Art & Design Artlink Gallery, and even regional high schools to connect with creatives and develop ongoing relationships.

“We also watch social media for artists in the area,” she says. “Two Fort Wayne area artists you probably know of are…Painter Phresh Laundry and Photographer Jared Christiansen. If you go to our on-site clinic at Electric Works, you can see examples of Jared’s work. He took photos and then manipulated them into abstracts, as we requested.”

In the case of Christiansen, Epple says their meeting was a bit serendipitous. She found his social media presence and was impressed with the caliber of his work, so she sought him out for a commission. Since they first met, his brand has grown and his portfolio has expanded considerably. That’s what she hopes for every artist who crosses her path.

The public was invited to tour the new Parkview Kosciusko Hospital during an open house. Artwork featured throughout the facility was created by local artists.Finding artists in rural counties isn’t always as serendipitous. For their facilities outside of Allen County, Epple says they do their best to consult with community members to source art. They do that by putting a call out for photography captured by locals, much like they did in Kosciusko County. The staff working in those rural counties, like Parkview Whitley Hospital and Kosciusko Hospital, help facilitate this.

Whatever the venue, Epple says getting stakeholders involved right out of the gate always produces better outcomes on a few levels.

“What we have found is that the community feels more tied to our facilities,” she says. “When their neighbor did a piece of art in the building or someone they know did, or they themselves have created a piece of art in the building, it brings the community a little closer to what we do. So many times community members are coming to our buildings when they're uncomfortable, but at least there's something there, that ties them to what they know and a positive association.”

The value of the artwork in these facilities goes beyond aesthetics. There’s evidence that the presence of art can enhance well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, making or simply being around artwork has great potential as a form of therapy. Here, the authors note that art can help increase serotonin levels and blood flow to the part of the brain associated with pleasure. It can also inspire new ways of thinking and a general feeling of optimism.

Open house guests view a patient room in the new Parkview Kosciusko Hospital, which includes a mural painted by a local artist.Of course, building design and features can also boost mood. That’s why Parkview Regional Medical Center, on the city’s northside, was built using art, light, space, and textures to create a calm and healing atmosphere. The facility features all types of locally sourced art, including woodcuts, monotypes, acrylic, oil and watercolor paintings, fiber art, metalwork, stained glass and hand-blown glass, photography, and ceramics. 

Continuing on that trajectory, the Parkview Health Foundation launched the Healing Arts Program in November 2013. In collaboration with Fort Wayne Dance Collective, the program allows families and caregivers to engage with artists in an intimate and meaningful way. Supported in part by generous donations to the Foundation, the program has introduced literary, movement, music, and visual arts into patient care.

Though Healing Arts is a separate program, the commonality is supporting local artists and their creative endeavors. Epple says success stories like Christiansen’s make her work gratifying and have encouraged her to do the same for other artists. 

The process from initial contact to the installation is fairly straightforward. Her team operates on a project-by-project basis, meaning they work within the confines of the strategic plan.

In her words, “Most of the time, we have a location and then we're reaching out to the artists to commission an original piece or we're looking through their existing work depending on our budget.”

The public was invited to tour the new Parkview Kosciusko Hospital during an open house. Artwork featured throughout the facility was created by local artists.Epple is bullish on the future of Parkview’s art program and Northeast Indana’s art scene as a whole. 

“Northeast Indiana has a great art community,” she says. “With all the murals going up, we’re watching the enthusiasm that it generates. That definitely plays a part in what we've chosen to do.”

This story is part of a series supported by Parkview Health.
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Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a freelance contributor for Input Fort Wayne. A graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.