Curating Comfort – The Health Perks of Art in Public Spaces

Monster Sculpture In River


I try not to say hate a lot but…

I hate nothing more than a trip to the doctor’s office. The space is pale and cold and they have smooth jazz playing on a loop. The art hanging on the wall is typically a watered down pastel. It’s paler than my white knuckles as I clench my fists to combat white coat syndrome.


The starchiness makes me tense and uncomfortable, which makes me want to leave as soon as possible. The public space of a doctor’s office is often unfriendly, but many healthcare facilities are changing for the better… Sanford House (where I work as a summer intern) is a great example of taking the “sterile” out of the addiction treatment center.

Curating Comfort

Many medical centers are trading in the unengaging pastels for bright pops of color. Curators are putting together collections of statement pieces that are interactive and welcoming.It makes their waiting rooms feel more lived in, their treatment rooms more comfortable and their patients healthier. They are creating a character that is more reflective of the positives done by their medical teams. They are making visitors feel like they are not in a hospital (or a dentist’s office or a detox center) and I find that refreshing.



Sneak peek at ArtPrize 2016 – The Grand Rapids Ballet


That’s What’s Being Done in Grand Rapids With ArtPrize.

ArtPrize offers a unique change of pace for our city. The world famous, judged art show, incorporates massive scale artwork that remains in our public spaces.  An urban walk with the women of Sanford House affords a constant surprise around every corner.


I remember the first piece to accentuate a public space in Grand Rapids. “Nessie on the Grand” is a 100-foot long sculpture of the Lock Ness Monster that was placed in the Grand River. If you were here during the first ArtPrize, I am sure you remember this entry. It made the Riverwalk a destination for those who haven’t experienced it before, because that was the best vantage point for the sculpture. I will admit the novelty of this entry wore off for me during the progression of the competition. It wasn’t my style of art, but I talked about it, and that’s what is important.


Healthy Recovery for Children Mural

Let’s talk about art.

ArtPrize creates a conversation for people who are not particularly interested in spending their afternoon in a gallery or museum. And according to the American Public Health Association, “there is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states…”


Sanford House art therapist, Jessica Kimmel, says, “The good thing about ArtPrize is that the type of art is more like folk art, which encourages people who aren’t technically trained to enjoy the artwork.”


Jessica says ArtPrize is doing a great job including people into the art conversation. “I think what scares people who don’t have ‘technical’ art training is just that. The technicality scares them away because they don’t know how to ‘correctly’ respond”. ArtPrize opens up a space for conversation about art. This conversation won’t require you to dust off your notes from the required art history course you took in college…


Changing The Boundaries

These sculptures and murals are becoming a part of our lives and our city. They are accentuating office walls and creating a background for our lives (and the lives of our residents). The bright murals and sculptures give vibrant energy to our city and bring a smile to everyone’s face.


ArtPrize is changing the boundaries of art by giving it to a community in ways that allow everyone to enjoy or even be uncomfortable. Art gives character and personality to the streets of Grand Rapids! We are happier! More interesting! I am grateful to live in a city that is not starchy and monochromatic, but is vibrantly homey.


And only occasionally do you hear smooth jazz…


Grand Rapids Healthy Mural



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Sanford Behavioral Health is a residential and outpatient facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in a home-like, restorative setting. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use, such as trauma, unhealthy relationships, co-occurring disorders and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.