Contemporary Art in Health Care Environments

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Tamar Tembeck, Art Historian, Curator and Lecturer, McGill University ● www.tembeck.org

Due to copyright restrictions, the images in Tamar Tembeck’s presentation at TransCultural Exchange’s 2016 International Conference on Opportunities in the Arts could not be included in this online archive.

Tembeck’s presentation investigated the range and significance of contemporary art practices in health care environments, excepting projects deployed specifically for therapeutic ends. As she noted, the term “nosocomial” (derived from the Greek for hospital) is commonly used in French to qualify hospital-acquired infections, which develop and propagate within health care environments. Here, she employed the term to identify a particular subset of public art that has been on the rise in Europe and North America since the 1970s. “Healthy design” initiatives are increasingly built into hospital planning, and “percent for art” schemes allow for the integration of public art into new hospital buildings, as well as the commissioning of site-specific works. Artists can now also hold residencies in health care spaces and/or present in-situ performances in those spaces. While these initiatives undoubtedly participate in a broader “humanization of health care” movement, art projects destined for health care environments are often presumed to fall specifically under a therapeutic imperative. Since the birth of hospitals in the Middle Ages, however, the integration of art has played a variety of other roles in health care environments, ranging from providing contemplative touchstones for patients, staff and visitors to improving an institution’s overall image in the public eye.