Hospital artwork seen as healing force

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Rockingham Memorial Hospital is on the hunt for artwork. The Harrisonburg institution is building a new hospital that is slated to open in 2010. Hospital officials want to furnish it with artwork that not only conveys the beauty and history of the Shenandoah Valley but also has a healing effect on patients.

“We find that the right aesthetics can provide a peaceful and therapeutic atmosphere,” says Merv Webb, vice president of the RMH Foundation. That atmosphere includes the hospital’s surroundings, room décor and art. “There have been a number of studies concluding that all of this really is part of the healing process.”

The hospital plans to buy about 700 pieces of art, including water­­­­­­­­­­color and oil-based paintings, sculpture, mosaics, ceramics and textiles. The buying will begin this fall.
A local art committee will work with The Ambiance Group, a Nashville company that specializes in providing artwork for health-care facilities, to select the pieces. Ambiance consultants then will purchase the artwork, plan its placement, frame and hang wall art, and install three-dimensional pieces.

Already, 100 artists have submitted work for consideration, but the art committee hopes to increase that number. Artists who live in the Shenandoah Valley or have some connection to the area are invited to apply. Others whose work has been influenced by its culture and scenery also are encouraged to submit examples from their portfolios.

“We want artwork to represent the community and the talents that live here, but we also think it’s important for patients to be at ease while they’re here, so if they see something that’s familiar or they know the work of a particular artist, we feel that will provide a comfort and again be a part of the healing process,” Webb says.

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