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Artistic well-being

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Theme: building for health and disability - Radically different approaches to the use of art in hospitals are having a positive affect on both patients and staff, explains Dr Pascale Lacroix

This is a change in attitude to art in hospitals arising from the positive results achieved in pioneering hospitals in Scandinavia and in Britain. The most obvious example of the latter is the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where the art collection is so stunning that people actually tour the hospital to admire it.

However, it is the Riks University Hospital in Oslo that is, perhaps, the prime European example of how well-integrated art can make a hospital an exhilarating place that affects positively the well being of patients and staff.

Are decision makers in the rest of Europe as convinced that the arts should have a strong presence in any hospital?

In France a different process is in play. The Ministry of Heath and Culture now has a policy to encourage the integration of culture in hospitals. For example, special links between hospitals and museums are encouraged so that there is constant exchange between them, with the hospital becoming a strong organ in the midst of the community. Eidos Arts is presently involved with developing an art strategy for a major new hospital in the east of Paris and will establish guidelines as part of the hospital brief which will then be developed in conjunction with the selected architect.

Art in hospitals must be approached in the context of a researched, healing environment, with an implementation strategy that includes well-thought-out lighting, materials which can stimulate the senses (wood, stone, plants), and defined colour schemes that will become integrated with wayfinding. Art is not meant to compete with the concept of the architect but is meant to add spirituality, warmth and energy in a place where high technology can threaten and intimidate. This can best be achieved where 'Art in health' consultants are part of the team - from concept to creation.

Dr Pascale Lacroix is a Director of Eidos Arts, 'consultant in the art of well-being'. Contact eidosarts@aol. com

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