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Healing arts program

The Center for Healing Arts at University Health presents outstanding visual, performance and communicative art to promote healing and uplift the spirit of all who enter the hospital.

Our Healing Arts program incorporates visual, performance and other art forms throughout the hospital as a means of learning, expression and healing for patients, visitors and employees. The program strives to improve patient experience and outcomes and to encourage a broader understanding of cultural diversity in health and illness.

Healing Arts collection

A variety of fine art from local, national and international artists makes up the Healing Arts collection. The art on display throughout the hospital is meant to provide a pleasing atmosphere for patients, visitors and employees. To learn more about the Healing Arts collection, call Faith Hensley at 816.404.3443 or email

Made possible by generous donors

Approximately 50% of the art on display has been lent by individuals or organizations. Of the works of art in the hospital's permanent collection, half were given as gifts and half are purchases from funds provided by generous donors. No hospital operating funds are used to purchase art.

A brief history of art in healing

The use of art in Western medical treatment was first implemented in Greek healing temples, which incorporated art, music and landscape to create a holistic environment in which ailments were treated. In the 14th century, churches operated hospitals and used paintings, frescoes and other mediums to communicate their teachings. Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing, written in 1860, argues that patients require beauty and that its effect is not only on the mind but also on the body. During the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project employed artists to paint murals in government hospitals. During the 1980s, hospitals began to use art as decorative elements with no particular attention to its therapeutic qualities. The early 1990s brought a newfound interest in the therapeutic qualities of art, resulting in a surge in evidence-based design, which studies the effect of the environment on healing.

According to The Center for Health Design, nearly 50% of all hospitals in the U.S. today have arts programs, and according to respondents of a 2003 survey, 96% of hospital arts programs are intended to "serve patients directly." Fifty-five percent of the programs surveyed also present art to hospital staff as a way to reduce stress and improve patient care.

"UH has shown great vision and leadership with the Center for Healing Arts. Lifting the human spirit is one of the most important roles that art can play, and I can think of no better location for there to be great art than in the healing atmosphere of UH."

—Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell Director & CEO, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
"UH is on the vanguard of an important trend in holistic healing. I pray that hospitals worldwide will come to recognize that healing is not just limited to the time spent in ICU or on the operating table. Healing involves the entire environment and all of our senses."

—Christopher Radko, collector and donor to the UH Healing Arts program

Experiencing the arts directly influences healing

  • A 1993 survey found that patients viewing nature scenes after heart surgery reported less anxiety and stress and needed less pain medication than those in control groups.
  • Research in 2001 revealed that trauma and orthopedics patients who were exposed to visual arts and live music had shorter stays and needed significantly less pain relief than patients in control groups.

Excerpted from Kathy Hathorn and Upali Nanda, A Guide to Evidence-based Art, © The Center for Health Design 2008

Tours and events

University Health offers guided tours for groups, organizations and clubs. To schedule a tour, please call Faith Hensley at 816.404.3443 or email