Originally published in the Oakville Beaver by Nathan Howes, special to the Beaver

Halton Healthcare Services (HHS) is a firm believer in the health benefits of art.

This was evident Tuesday during its Art of Healing event, where some of the work that’s been loaned or donated to the new Oakville hospital was unveiled.

After a presentation and video, residents, artists and hospital art council members were given a short tour of the art installations at the yet-to-open building at Dundas Street and Third Line.

Through donations or loans, the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH) Art Council collects, curates and displays works of art that is hoped will inspire and lift the spirits of patients, visitors and their families, staff, physicians and volunteers.

“This is a state-of-the-art, intelligent facility, purpose-built to deliver exemplary patient experiences and to care for the whole patient — body, mind and spirit. We are celebrating the intersection of art and healing. Art can affect how our whole body heals. It is absolutely a powerful tool. We have not neglected this tool here at the new Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.” – Denise Hardenne, president/CEO Halton Healthcare Services

“This is a state-of-the-art, intelligent facility, purpose-built to deliver exemplary patient experiences and to care for the whole patient — body, mind and spirit. We are celebrating the intersection of art and healing,” said Denise Hardenne, HHS president and CEO.

To provide insight on art’s role in the healing process, Hardenne told the story of Dr. Michael Moskowitz, a physician who suffered from severe chronic pain.

“He found that the same parts of the brain that process pain also provide other functions, including our ability to visualize. Pain actually hijacks about 15 per cent of our visualization capacity,” said Hardenne.

Moskowitz discovered he could regain those shared parts of the brain by using a visualization exercise, Hardenne said, noting his chronic pain disappeared after years of practice.

Art that stimulates the visual aspects of the brain has the “power to help us manage our pain,” she said, and can also reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

“Art can affect how our whole body heals. It is absolutely a powerful tool. We have not neglected this tool here at the new Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital,” explained Hardenne.

The HHS president and CEO said the new facility is a “continuation of a historical legacy, but for us, it is also a new beginning.”

“We owe a special debt of gratitude to the council members for their volunteerism and their tenacious commitments to this mission,” said Hardenne.

“In the coming years, we hope to expand the presence in our hospital and use it to help our patients heal. We hope that you will join us hand-in-hand in that journey.”

The new, 1.6-million-square-foot hospital, which opens Dec. 13, features numerous exterior gardens and open spaces.

OTMH Art Council chair Joseph Rumi said its mission is to “create, with thoughtful moments of art, a warm and inviting welcome” to those who enter Oakville’s hospital.

In the last two years, the council has established an art policy to guide its work and develop donation, loaned and curatorial plans, he said.

“We have researched new and exciting ways to bring art into the hospital. We met with department heads to select art specific to the needs of their patients and staff and partnered with fantastic artists and donors,” said Rumi.

Artwork obtained so far, valued at $350,000, has filled 60 of the hospital’s 250 spaces designated for creative works, he noted.

The hospital’s art council will add to the collection and work with artists, hobbyists and benefactors to “fill the 190 additional art moments” throughout the new OTMH, Rumi said.

The group also plans to create an artist-in-residence program with the Ontario Arts Council, develop partnerships with community organizations to feature music in the hospital and launch a new initiative that will allow patients to select artwork from its collection for personal use.

“As we have worked towards our goal of making the walls at the new hospital more therapeutic, we’ve encountered stories of patients in various situations who have been uplifted by art,” said Rumi.

John Christie, director of Parkin Architects Limited, who designed the new hospital, said it wanted to ensure the environments it created were inspiring.

“You’re going to see where we’ve created positive distractions with the money we had and where we’ve created opportunities for people to follow and add their fingerprints to this project and make it your hospital.”

 

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