The “Pas de Deux” of Art and Healing- Dell Children’s Medical Center, Austin, TX

The folioing article appeared in the August newsletter of the Texas Society of Sculptors.

The “Pas de Deux” of Art and Healing

The days preceding our visit to the Dell Children’s Medical Center were full of enthusiasm.  Although we were anxious to view the art collection, our primary objective was to understand the role of artists in the healing process.

Upon entering the medical center one had to question if the outdoor signage was correct.  Are we in a hospital or a children’s museum?

The entrance, the puppet theater where we gathered and the kinetic artwork at the reception area greeted everyone with open arms.  Art, design and nature graced the spaciousness.  Walls of Texas stone, floors of mesquite, and art by local and global artists created a protective and nurturing environment.

Our docent provided a background on the center’s focus on art as part of the healing process. She explained that even before construction started, art was part of the design not an afterthought.  The institution follows the Planetree Model as a guide to enhance healthcare from the patient’s perspective.  Two critical components of this model are architectural design and art.

The experience of light pouring through grand windows, interior gardens and water features offer tranquility and harmony.   Simultaneously, it was amazing to observe, throughout the hospital, the quality of: abstract, figurative, religious, secular and naive artwork.  Whether placed in patients rooms, cafeteria, break rooms, hallways or in the gardens, art adds a sense of beauty and playfulness.  All of this, the architectural design and the art, brought together for one purpose: healing.

The Dell Children’s Medical Center boasts other unique and incredible features:

  • The largest private art collection in Texas,
  • Designation as a LEEDS Platinum Green Facility,
  • Is part of The Seton Healthcare Family Network,
  • The dog therapy wall commemorating 25 years of service,
  • Four 4’x8’ raised beds of vegetable and herbs.

So, the question are:

  • What did our president envision when she invited us to visit the Dell facility?
  • Was she challenging us with another perspective and another outlet for our art?
  • What can we do with it?  How can we enrich the life of others while evolving in our own sphere of art form?

She surely introduced us to another reality and deepened our thoughts on Art and Healing.  Our thanks go to her.

Marika Bordes, and

Dennis Martin

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