Tag Archives: AAH2017

Beyond Therapy: Situating Art and Design in Healthcare Contexts

Panel at Association of Art Historians conference, Loughborough, UK, April 6-8 2017

Chairs: Tamar Tembeck (McGill University) and Mary Hunter (McGill University)

In Europe and North America, greater attention is being paid to the built environment in medical spaces. ‘Healthy design’ initiatives are increasingly being integrated into hospital planning, in a vision that is coherent with the WHO’s definition of health, according to which ‘mental and social well-being’ are considered in addition to ‘the absence of disease or infirmity’. Government percentage-for-art schemes and public art funding policies count amongst the initiatives that have allowed for the integration of art in hospital architecture, the commissioning of in situ works, and the establishment of artists’ residences in medical environments.

Existing studies on art and design in healthcare contexts overwhelmingly focus on accumulating evidence of their beneficial impacts on patients’ recovery and general well-being. Since the birth of hospitals in the Middle Ages, however, the integration of art has played a variety of other roles in medical spaces, ranging from providing contemplative touchstones for patients, staff, and visitors, to improving the institution’s overall image in the public eye.

In this session, historians of art, architecture and design, as well as cultural practitioners, programmers and policymakers, will reflect upon, critique and question the forms and functions of contemporary and historical art and design practices in healthcare environments (hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, etc.). We will investigate how and why art and design practices are deployed outside of an explicitly therapeutic context (e.g., in art therapy).


Jackson Davidow (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Freedom as a Skill: Occupational Therapy and American Modernism.

David Theodore (School of Architecture, McGill University), Northwick Park Hospital: Healthcare Architecture as Art.

Lindsay Blair (University of the Highlands and Islands), Opportunities for Dialogue: Health, Architecture and the Arts.

Judy Rollins (Georgetown University School of Medicine), Art with Intent: An International Study of Purpose-built Artwork in Hospitals.

Jayne Lloyd (Paintings in Hospitals), From the Wallace Collection to the GP’s Waiting Room: Contemporary Art in Historic Houses and Primary Care Sites.