Hospitals can be overwhelming environments at first, filled with foreign sounds, smells and uncertainty.

At St John of God Hospitals, one of the most obvious ways we can create a warm and inviting environment is through the use of visual arts.

St John of God Health Care (SJGHC) Group Art Curator Connie Petrillo said the arts may hold the key to a new type of health promotion and healing.

“There have been many studies reinforcing the role that an exposure to art plays in modern healthcare, both in an acceleration of the treatment and rehabilitation process,” she said.

“It’s all part of therapeutic healing and it can reduce the length of time a patient stays in hospital and decrease the use of pain medication.

“Beautiful and creative environments also assist in supporting constructive visitor engagements and positive staff attitudes.

“The arts assist in promoting life to the full by enhancing the physical environment and supporting our intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions of being human.”

Supporting local artists
The SJGHC Art Collection includes visual arts across all hospitals in Australia, as well as off-site offices.

The Collection supports reputable artists both younger emerging and senior artists and has a focus on representing Indigenous artists and their culture and by extension is one means of promoting the SJGHC Reconciliation Action Plan and its commitment to ensuring a greater voice for Aboriginal peoples as we celebrate the rich Aboriginal culture.

“The Art Collection in particular is for the benefit, pleasure and education of the entire St John of God community,” Connie said.

“It is there for the benefit of all patients as well as visitors, caregivers and doctors who deliver the care.

“The reaction to a work of art is always subjective and one person’s masterpiece can be another’s postmodern disaster. When we view art, we are transported to a different place – it is like a mental escape. 

“This transportation of the mind has an effect on the body; as the mind relaxes so too does the body, allowing it to heal.”

Art central to doctor’s life

For one of our St John of God Murdoch Hospital doctors in particular, art is central to his life.

Surgeon Dr David Cooke is an avid art collector. He has lent several of his collections to the SJGHC Art Collection for display. Most recently, Dr Cooke kindly lent ‘The Snark’ series of works by John McIntosh for display last year. This same collection has been on display at St John of God Mt Lawley Hospital in 2019.

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