Patients choose the art in their rooms at St. Joseph in Bangor, Maine

April 1, 2017

By JULIE MINDA

At St. Joseph Healthcare in Bangor, Maine, patients can customize their hospital room décor by choosing the art that will decorate their walls during their stay.

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Judith Carr is among the volunteers who staff the art cart at St. Joseph Healthcare in Bangor, Maine.

A volunteer visits patients in inpatient units, asking them whether they would like different art prints in their rooms. The volunteer comes prepared with a dedicated iPad, loaded with photos of all of the artwork that is available, and a cart with a selection of framed prints.

Amassed over nearly two years, the collection now includes 95 individual images, plus duplicates of the most popular choices. The collection includes prints of photographs and paintings of nature scenes, animals, objects, architecture and people.

The hospital's rolling gallery is called the "Mona Blitz Art Cart."

Art lover Mona Blitz was a patient at St. Joseph and its hospice program. Her husband, Sanford Blitz, made a memorial gift of $2,500 to establish the art cart and he is among the volunteers who staff the service. His annual donation and contributions from dozens of other philanthropists have expanded the collection.

Susan Bernier, executive director of philanthropy for St. Joseph, said the art cart idea originated with St. Joseph's Art Commission, a small group of community volunteers and hospital staff who manage hospital programs aimed at improving patients' and visitors' experience through art. Commission members selected the prints and update the collection based on feedback on patient preferences, from the volunteers who staff the cart. The commission also manages the hospital's rotating exhibitions of Maine artists' work and its permanent art collection. Bernier said the commission has hosted educational sessions about the intersection of art and healing. It also has collaborated on a photo collection about ways the local health care community is responding to an opioid crisis.

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Judith Carr is among the volunteers who staff the art cart at St. Joseph Healthcare in Bangor, Maine.

A Bangor-area printing company mounts and frames all of the prints, and the prints conform to sanitation standards established by the hospital's infection control team. Each print is cleaned between uses.

Bernier said, "By providing a natural focal point, presenting a beautiful distraction and offering a chance for peaceful reflection, art is shown to reduce pain levels, stress and anxiety for patients and visitors."

Judith Carr, one of the art cart volunteers, said patients seem to like nature scenes best, including sunrise, sunset and mountain lake images. The prints of lighthouses and cats are very popular. She said men gravitate toward fishing and boating prints; women prefer lakes, trees and flowers. "All like scenes that remind them of home, camp or their younger years," Carr said.

She said, "This art program gives me the opportunity to open conversation with the patient. I find many want to talk and take their mind off of pain or perhaps loneliness."

 

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