Herron School of Art and Design is in the thick of IUPUI’s entrepreneurial culture

Herron School of Art and Design

IUPUI provides many pathways for students who want to learn more about the art and science of entrepreneurship. Herron School of Art and Design is one of the places on campus where entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged and supported. Here are a few examples:

Herron’s Visual Communication Design graduate curriculum focuses on design thinking and leadership. It engages students with diverse community members and organizations through projects where students use design thinking processes to lead stakeholders to solutions that address a diverse range of real concerns. A recent meeting about “Developing an Entrepreneurship Culture at IUPUI” provided an opportunity to illustrate the application of these processes. According to Youngbok Hong, associate professor and coordinator of the Design Thinking and Leadership Graduate Program at Herron, “idea generation during this meeting was enhanced through the use of visual modeling, which captured both the breakout session and large group discussions in real time. Students and faculty from Herron served as the visual modelers.”

The latest modification to Herron’s physical space will be the new Think It Make It Lab in Eskenazi Hall. With an anticipated opening this spring, the Lab will give students access to even more digital technologies, building on Herron’s existing equipment and curriculum. Other faculty and students from across campus will also use the equipment, which will create synergy across disciplines. Students will explore the broad applications of design, production and fabrication that are in demand in a variety of fields. The Lab will expand Herron’s capability to educate its students about rapid prototyping and cross-disciplinary investigations with schools and departments including Engineering and Technology, Interior Design, Informatics and Computing, Motorsports and Medicine.

The Basile Center for Art, Design and Public Life at Herron offers students professional practice experiences integrated into the academic curriculum. Students have opportunities to collaborate on projects with businesses, not-for-profit organizations, communities and government agencies that provide professional-level engagement and enhanced experiential learning. There are a wide range of projects—from designing an award in bronze to creating a painting for a magazine cover to developing large-scale installations. Students develop and present their concepts based on the needs of clients. Since the Basile Center was established in 2006, more than 900 students have participated in projects serving approximately 105 community partners.

Herron graduate students may also opt into experiences such as a new, interprofessional class that spans visual communication design, informatics and computing, nursing and more. With a working title of “Healthcare Revolution Challenge 2015,” the course is designed to offer one credit for each of three semesters. Students will go through the course as cohorts, collaborating on cases for actual healthcare clients and presenting their proposed solutions in a “Shark Tank” style setting. Eva Roberts, Visual Communication Design department chair, said “Herron faculty members are among the developers and presenters of this distinctively formatted course, the aim of which is a working endeavor to humanize healthcare and increase access by disrupting the current system.”

Steward Speakers Series brings Hollywood to Indianapolis

Viola Davis

Viola Davis

Two acclaimed TV and film personalities are headed to Indianapolis to take the podium as guest speakers for the 2014-15 Steward Speakers Series.

Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey

The Steward Speakers Series presents award-winning actress Viola Davis and popular talk show and game show host Steve Harvey as keynote speakers for the lecture series that seeks to enhance the community by providing opportunities to engage with America’s best leaders and brightest luminaries.

Davis, currently starring in the ABC hit “How to Get Away With Murder,” is the featured speaker for the March 2 talk. Harvey, who has found success as an actor, writer and producer, as well as TV host, will headline the April 20 lecture.

Activities during both evenings include dinner from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the second-floor ballroom at the Marriott Downtown, 350 S. Maryland St.

During the March 2 lecture, Davis will discuss her career and how overcoming adversities and preconceived restrictions have all contributed to reinforcing her abilities as an artist and to her becoming a stronger woman.

The Tony Award-winning actress was thrust into the spotlight after her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Aibileen Clark in “The Help,” a big-screen drama about the struggles of black housekeepers working for white families in 1960s Mississippi.

In addition to hosting his TV shows, Harvey is a fashion entrepreneur and bestselling author. The 2012 box office hit, “Think Like a Man,” was adapted from Harvey’s No. 1 book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”

While he is known as a funny man, Harvey’s serious side shows in his longtime dedication to philanthropy. His current projects include The Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men, a camp that shares insights and manhood skills with teenage boys who are without fathers.

Tickets for each dinner and the following lecture are $100 per person. They can be purchased online.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a title sponsor for the Steward Speakers 2014-2015 season that opened with Nov. 20 and Feb. 9 events featuring Michael Eric Dyson and T.J. Holmes as guest speakers.

The Steward Speakers Series provides continuous education and awareness to Indianapolis residents interested in empowerment topics. The program allows the community to dialogue on important issues of the day with celebrities, leaders and experts in particular fields.

IUPUI Africana studies program presents first Heritage Week

The Africana Studies Program in the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will inaugurate the first Africana Studies Heritage Week Feb. 9 to 13.

The weeklong celebration will feature a series of public lectures; panel discussions; an art exhibit curated by Bessie House-Soremekun, professor and director of Africana studies; a book signing by Ronda Henry Anthony, public scholar of African American studies and undergraduate research; and film viewings based on the theme of “Reconnecting the African Diaspora to Africa.”

“It is entirely fitting and important for us to establish Africana Studies Heritage Week as one of the important traditions that we will celebrate yearly at IUPUI,” House-Soremekun said.

“We are delighted that we will celebrate the creation of black studies/Africana studies as a viable discipline in academia and pay tribute to the numerous contributions of Africa and of African-descended people who reside in the African Diaspora as part of the broader Black History Month activities. Africa is the birthplace of humankind as we know it and has been central in the development of global civilization processes. Our goal is to expose students, faculty and members of the broader community as a whole to these important issues.”

The Heritage Week celebrations will kick off Monday, Feb. 9, with a lecture featuring Dawn Batson, the former chair of the Department of Visual & Performing Arts at the Florida Memorial University and former chair of the National Steel Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago, as the keynote speaker.

The event begins at 11:40 a.m. in Room 104 of Taylor Hall, 815 W. Michigan St., with introductions from House-Soremekun and Khalilah Shabazz, director of the IUPUI Multicultural Center. Batson will speak from noon to 12:45 p.m.

As part of the Heritage Week observance, House-Soremekun will present an art exhibit and lecture, “The Africa the World Seldom Sees.” Using African artwork from her personal collection, as well as photos she took when she served as a faculty host on the “Treasures of East Africa Tour” to Tanzania and Kenya in 2014 (sponsored by the Indiana University Alumni Association), House-Soremekun will challenge stereotypical images of Africa often presented in popular culture by presenting a compelling counter-narrative that illuminates many positive attributes and beauty of African society.

The art exhibit is open for public viewing Feb. 9 to 28 in Taylor Hall, Room 101.

“The inaugural Africana Studies Heritage Week features a full line-up of very interesting and enjoyable events,” said William Blomquist, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “I commend all those who have collaborated on the organization of this new program, and we’re looking forward to its successful launch.”

Other events open to students, faculty and the general public during Heritage Week include:

12:50 to 2:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9, Taylor Hall, Room 115k — Panel discussion about the recent critically acclaimed film “Selma,” moderated by Monroe Little, associate professor of Africana studies and history.
6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, Taylor Hall, Room 101 — A public reception with an Evening of Jazz performed by Bryan Thompson.
1:15 to 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, Taylor Hall, Room 104 — The lecture “Negotiating Patriarchy, Colonial Legacies and Human Rights Law in Africa” by Obioma Nnaemeka, Chancellor’s professor of French, Africana studies and women’s studies;
Noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, Taylor Hall, Room 104 — A lecture by Ronda Henry Anthony about her book, “Searching for the New Black Man, Black Masculinity and Women’s Bodies.”
10 a.m. to noon Friday, Feb. 13, Taylor Hall, Room 115K — Viewing of the film “Honor & Glory,” the story of the co-discoverer of the North Pole, Matthew Henson.

Additional sponsors for the weeklong event include the IUPUI Office of Admissions; the IU School of Liberal Arts; Office for Diversity, Access, and Inclusion; Multicultural Center, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute and the Center for Global Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development.

The first annual Africana Studies Heritage Week is free and open to the public. A complete listing of events is available online.

For more information, call the Africana studies program at 317-274-8662.

Director of Art Therapy Juliet King appointed to professorship in Department of Neurology

Juliet King

Juliet King

Juliet King, assistant professor and director of Art Therapy, has been appointed to an adjunct assistant professorship in the School of Medicine Department of Neurology.

In announcing the groundbreaking joint appointment, Robert M. Pascuzzi, M.D., professor and chair of neurology, wrote “Ms. King’s professional background and current activities relate closely to those of the Department of Neurology and associated departments within the IU Neuroscience Center. As such, a secondary appointment for Ms. King in Neurology will foster collaborative research related to art and the brain with an emphasis on the development of therapeutic strategies for broad application.”

King is a licensed professional counselor and currently serves on the American Art Therapy Associations board of directors. Her current research focuses on helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder through Art Therapy.

Her participation in medical student education in a variety of clinical departments at the School of Medicine and IU Health and her work in Indianapolis and surrounding communities to build 30 clinical internship programs for Herron Art Therapy students has built bridges between art and medicine on the IUPUI campus and beyond since the Graduate Art Therapy Program’s inception in 2011.

“The scope of neurological and psychiatric disorders affecting the general population is staggering,” said Dr. Pascuzzi. “Traumatic brain injury represents a common daily challenge for the clinician, be it related to sports concussion, auto accidents, the effects of military combat, epilepsy, stroke, depression or other causes.

“Each of these disorders presents major challenges to patients, families and communities,” he continued. “Currently, each has limited therapeutic options. Thus, it is essential that any opportunity to improve our ability to prevent and manage these common disorders be identified and perfected. Juliet King’s focus on the neuro-scientific basis for art therapy provides our institution with the opportunity to clarify mechanisms for effective art therapy, optimize treatment strategies and clinical applications, establish an optimal educational program for such treatment and, ultimately, improve the outcomes of our patients.”

IUPUI professor provided key testimony in Nigerian oil-spill case settled for $83 million

Scott Pegg treks through mud, dead mangrove trees and previous oil spill residue to get to the site of a new oil spill in 2012.

Scott Pegg treks through mud, dead mangrove trees and previous oil spill residue to get to the site of a new oil spill in 2012.

In an out-of-court settlement announcement Wednesday, Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria agreed to a compensation package of 55 million pounds — about $83.4 million — for a Nigerian farming and fishing community damaged by massive oil spills in 2008 and 2009. An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor had been among witnesses for the residents of Bodo, Nigeria, in their three-year legal battle.

According to a statement by Leigh Day, the London-based law firm representing the community of Bodo, 15,600 individual claimants will received a total of 35 million pounds, with the remainder of the settlement going to the Bodo community as a whole. Shell has also agreed to clean up the Bodo Creek, Day said.

Scott Pegg, chair of the Department of Political Science in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, has been actively involved in the life of Bodo for more than 14 years. As someone who has worked in Bodo for years and as an honorary chief in the village, Pegg said it was the least he could do to provide a detailed witness statement on behalf of the Bodo plaintiffs.

Pegg first visited the community in 2000 and returned a year later with his wife, Tijen Demirel-Pegg. The then newlyweds donated $2,800 of their wedding gift money to the Bebor Model Nursery and Primary School in Botor Village, Bodo. This money finished a roofing project and funded a cement floor for a five-classroom primary school building at the school that now serves more than 300 children.

The couple continued to raise money for the school, and in 2002 their work was formally incorporated into the work of the Indianapolis-based charity now known as Timmy Global Health. The Peggs’ work with the school in Bodo now includes providing boreholes for drinking water; boys’, girls’ and teachers’ toilets for better sanitation; and a pilot health program providing immunizations, health exams and deworming treatments to students at the school.

In 2002, the Bodo Council of Chiefs named the Peggs honorary chiefs in recognition of their contribution to the community’s educational development. In August 2005, Botor Village in Bodo dedicated the “Chief Prof Scott Pegg Road.”

Pegg’s written testimony, filed in the case before the High Court in London, used numerous pictures to document the story of Bodo’s transformation after the oil spills from a vibrant fishing community to a land of “environmental devastation as far as the eye could see.”

Of particular interest to the British lawyers representing the Bodo claimants were the many photographs Pegg had from earlier visits to Bodo before the 2008-09 oil spills. Pegg and people who visited with him often would go down to the waterfront and paddle out into Bodo Creek on a traditional fishing canoe for recreation. Pegg said he never envisioned that his “tourist photos” along the waterfront would actually be used to help document how green and verdant the mangrove forests in Bodo were before the oil spills.

Pegg, who holds a doctorate in political science, described himself as “sort of a perfect storm” as a witness in that the combination of his academic training and interests and his track record of publications on the oil industry in Africa, plus his local status as a chief in the village, made his testimony hard to discredit. At IUPUI, Pegg primarily teaches courses on international relations, war and conflict, U.S. foreign policy, globalization and African politics.

The IUPUI professor is proud of the fact that the Bodo case is the first major legal settlement where compensation has been paid directly to individual Africans and not just done through chiefs or community leaders. He believes the success or failure of the promised environmental cleanup of Bodo Creek will ultimately be even more important than the compensation itself. He also hopes the case will set a precedent and establish benchmark standards for oil companies to follow in dealing with other oil spills throughout the Niger Delta.

“Bodo has suffered and continues to suffer horribly because of the two massive oil spills that hit the community in 2008-09 and for which any kind of clean-up effort has still not yet started,” Pegg said in an email message to Timmy Global Health supporters and other friends. “Even if everything goes well with this settlement, the community faces a daunting list of challenges and problems.

“Still, this is a great day for the people of Bodo. As people who have supported them in various ways, I hope you can savor and enjoy this news as well.”

Call for Nominations: Max Planck Research Award

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Excellent scientists and scholars of all nationalities who are expected to continue producing outstanding academic achievements in international collaboration – not least with the assistance of this award – are eligible to be nominated for the Max Planck Research Award.

On an annually-alternating basis, the call for nominations addresses areas within the natural and engineering sciences, the life sciences, and the social sciences and humanities.

The Max Planck Research Award 2015 will be conferred in the area of humanities and social sciences in the subject

Religion and Modernity: Secularisation and Social and Religious Pluralism
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The multidisciplinary field “Religion and Modernity: Secularisation and Social and Religious Pluralism” addresses a range of diverse fundamental, partly interconnected research questions with reference to the development and change of religious thought and practice on their way to modernity and up to the present time. Is the conventional equation between modernity and secularisation a valid one? To what extent is the system of values, which shapes modern culture and society, rooted in the Christian tradition of the Middle Ages or in that of the early modern period (individualism, human rights, the intrinsic value of a secular order in contrast to a spiritual one)? Other questions playing a role within this debate address the adaptability of different religious and confessional communities to the challenges of modernity, as well as the relationship between state/secular authority and church(es) or other religious communities in the recent past and particularly in our present time. Concepts which are important in this area are for example laicism (Laïcité) or “civil religion” or privileging large religious communities. Finally the rise of religious pluralism and the individualisation of religious experience are relevant phenomena for this topic.

Every year, the Humboldt Foundation and the Max Planck Society grant two research awards to one researcher working abroad and one researcher working in Germany. These two awards will be bestowed independently.

The Presidents/Vice Chancellors of universities and the heads of research institutions in Germany are eligible to make nominations (c.f. list of eligible nominators). Direct applications are not accepted. As a rule, each award is endowed with 750,000 EUR and may be used over a period of three to a maximum of five years to fund research chosen by the award winner.

Sponsor deadline: 31 Jan 2015, Nominations

Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Max Planck Research Award

Ebola: “Over There”…Now “Over Here” An Urgent Conversation About Ethics, Law, Public Health, and Practice

Ebola Virus

Ebola Virus

The initial outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EBV) in West Africa presented many ethical, legal, logistical and clinical challenges for first responders, clinicians, politicians and researchers. These challenges have been magnified now that EBV has crossed the Atlantic transforming the public conversation from a worrisome public health challenge over there, to one we need to address over here. A group of experts in the ethical, legal, public health and clinical care implications will discuss several key issues facing patients, practitioners and the public. Following short presentations, an open dialogue will allow for exchange of perspectives.

Discussants:
Eric M. Meslin, PhD-
Director, Indiana University Center for Bioethics, Associate Dean and Professor of Bioethics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Professor of Law and Bioethics, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Chad Priest, JD, MSN, RN- Assistant Dean for Operations & Community Partnerships, Indiana University School of Nursing, Co-Director, Disaster Medicine Fellowship, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine
Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH- Professor and Acting Chair, Department of Health Policy & Management Indiana University, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health Professor of Public Health & Law, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Nicolas P. Terry, LL.M.- Hall Render Professor of Law & Director, Hall Center for Law and Health, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Co-sponsored by the Indiana University Center for Bioethics, Fairbanks School of Public Health, School of Nursing, and Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Blomquist stepping down as dean to pursue passion for water resource management, policy

Bill Blomquist, Dean IUPUI School of Liberal Arts

Bill Blomquist, Dean
IUPUI School of Liberal Arts

Bill Blomquist, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, has announced he’s stepping down effective summer 2015 to return to regular faculty duties and pursue projects at IUPUI that align with his research interests concerning water resources management and policy.

An internationally recognized expert in water institutions and policies, Blomquist wants to contribute to the research-informed development of state water policy and planning for Indiana. According to a six-month study recently released by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, there is a critical need for a state-driven water plan to identify resources and develop ways to deliver water to underserved areas.

“Bill Blomquist led the School of Liberal Arts through a transformational period –launching its two Ph.D. programs; welcoming the Department of Journalism and Public Relations; facilitating the creation of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; improving support of part-time faculty; and enhancing the scholarly strength of the school,” IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz said. “He now has the opportunity to focus his established expertise and leadership to a vital issue for Indiana: water.”

Blomquist earned his Bachelor of Science in economics and Master of Arts in political science from Ohio University and his Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University.

Bantz will soon form a committee charged with conducting a national search for Blomquist’s successor.

Common Theme filling essential purpose for a focus on tough issues

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2013-15 Common Theme, “Find Your Voice: Hear My Voice.”

For Jane Luzar and Khadija Khaja, “respectful conversation and dialogue” is the glue that holds a large college campus together even when views are completely different.

That’s what they envisioned for the Common Theme at IUPUI, launched a year ago to help the campus deal with issues that could lead to polarized discourse in teaching and learning climates.

Khaja is a faculty member from the School of Social Work and the Academic Affairs Faculty Fellow responsible for the 2013-15 Common Theme, “Find Your Voice: Hear My Voice.”

Khaja facilitates the program, working closely with mentor Dean Jane Luzar of Honors College, the director of project, and an interdisciplinary collaboration of Common Theme steering committee faculty, staff, community members and students.

There are numerous events planned for 2014-15, but the two most significant on this year’s Common Theme calendar include keynote talks by the distinguished Rev. Harold Good on September 10 and by author/filmmaker Phil Cousineau on Nov. 19. Cousineau wrote “Beyond Forgiveness, Reflections on Atonement: Healing the Past, Making Amends, and Restoring Balance in our Lives and World.”

For Luzar, Common Theme fills a vital role campus role.

“We wanted to develop a way for our campus to discuss important issues without them getting bogged down in politics or personalities,” Luzar said. “Common Theme helps achieve that goal.”

Luzar is convinced that IUPUI is on the right track to encourage a free flow of ideas and generate thought, particularly among students. For example, she said, Good is known for helping shepherd Northern Ireland in a direction toward fewer guns and a peace agreement among previously warring factions.

“If you think about it, that’s a rather timely subject for those of us in Indianapolis,” Luzar said, referring to the escalating number of shootings and murders in our city. She is hopeful that Good’s commitment to peace, justice and reconciliation might rub off on guests attending Good’s IUPUI appearance.

Campus reaction to Common Theme events has been solid, the Honors College official noted.

Khaja and co-investigators Kathy Grove, Dan Griffith and Ian McIntosh led 33 focus groups to help discover when discussions tended to break down. “It was clear that students, faculty, staff and some community members wanted more cross-campus conversations,” she said.

For example “we heard all the time that faculty didn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves or their opinions in class because they worried that some students would penalize them for being too conservative or too liberal,” Luzar noted. “And we heard the same things from some students about faculty reaction.”

The focus groups identified a wide array of hot-button issues, including bullying and cyber-bullying, race, religion, sexual identity and many more.

Events and workshops have been well attended to try and address some of the issues. But it can be difficult to measure the value of a program like Common Theme can be, Luzar said.

The project is drawing wide interest. The collaboration between Common Theme and the Office for Intergroup Dialogue and Civil Community will be discussed at this month’s annual conference and expo of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. And the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks invited Khaja to speak on lessons learned and how to implement such a program.

“Khaja’s research has helped us find ways to get schools otherwise siloed to work together and focus on key topics,” Luzar said. “That’s useful to building our campus community.”

by Ric Burrous

More Hospitals Use the Healing Powers of Public Art

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‘Mike Kelley 1,’ video art by Jennifer Steinkamp at the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art and Photography

Researchers are learning more about the precise ways paintings and other works of art help patients and families in the healing process. With studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety, hospitals are considering and choosing artworks based on the evidence and giving it a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors.

“These are not just accoutrements or aesthetics anymore,” says Lisa Harris, a nephrologist and chief executive of Eskenazi Health, affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

With a $1.5 million budget from donors, she says, the health system commissioned 19 artists to create original works to support “the sense of optimism, vitality and energy” for the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital, which opened last December. “This is right down the fairway of what we need to be doing to promote health,” Dr. Harris says.

“Paths Crossed,” by Maine artist Aaron T. Stephan, is a large, spiraling wooden sculpture composed of six intertwined ladders suspended from the ceiling in the hospital’s two-story main concourse.

To Dr. Harris, it is a visual representation of the hospital’s approach to care, with “lives intertwined as we go from health to sickness and back to health again,” she says. People have reacted differently, she notes. “Some see it as DNA, and some see it as a roller coaster.”

Anne Berry, 81, says, “It makes me think of flying.” She visits the hospital for procedures and tests such as a mammogram and always takes time to look at the artworks. She has “white coat syndrome,” which makes her nervous about going to a doctor, but she says, “I have found the art and the environment at Eskenazi makes it less stress-inducing for me.”

Close to half of hospitals have arts programs, which include art therapy classes and musical performances, according to a 2009 report from the Society for Arts in Healthcare, now known as the Arts & Health Alliance.

Permanent art displays are most prevalent, and the trend continues to grow, says Steven Libman, outgoing executive director and now a consultant for the nonprofit.

Though many hospitals are in a budget crunch, funds for art are often provided by philanthropy, or built into construction budgets of new facilities.

For help with choosing art works, consultants, hospital curators and art committees turn to studies such as those gathered in the nonprofit Center for Health Design’s “Guide to Evidence-Based Art.”

Research suggests patients are positively affected by nature themes and figurative art with unambiguous, positive faces that convey a sense of security and safety.

Some studies have found that patients are likely to respond negatively to art with negative images or icons. Abstract art also often rates low in patient preferences compared with representational art.

One 1993 study found that patients exposed to a nature image experienced less postoperative anxiety and were more likely to switch to weaker painkillers than those who viewed an abstract image or no image.

A 2011 study found that nature images helped calm restless behavior and noise levels in two Texas emergency department waiting rooms.

A 2012 review of neuroscience studies published in the Health Environments Research & Design Journal found that images of fearful or angry faces, ambiguous subject matter, high novelty and unfamiliarity, lack of realism and sharp contours elicit negative emotional responses in the brain and suggested they should be avoided.

Hospitals aren’t shying away from art whose content is open to interpretation or might make patients reflect. In the spring 2014 issue of the same journal, the Cleveland Clinic reported that patients surveyed on its contemporary collection—which includes abstract and nonrepresentational imagery by some prominent artists—reported a significant positive effect on their experience and on mood, stress, comfort and expectations.

The study suggested patients may respond positively to the diversity of the collection and to other types of art in addition to nature art.

Still, says Iva Fattorini, a dermatologist and global chairwoman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Arts & Medicine Institute, the focus is on art that is “not disturbing, but uplifting and diverse.” The aim “is to take your mind away from the disease and replace the time you are losing inside hospital with some beauty.”

Some patients in its survey reported they were motivated to get out of bed to view the artwork. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder reported the most significant positive improvement in mood.

One popular piece is “Mike Kelley 1″ by artist Jennifer Steinkamp; an illuminated video installation of a large tree that cycles through the seasons, changing color and moving as if in a breeze.

Heather Kreinbrink says when her daughter Allison had a stroke at age 12 in 2010 and was hospitalized for a week, she and her husband, Rod, found looking at the installation outside the children’s wing provided a sense of calm amid their fear and exhaustion.

“It ended up being something we would go to every day for peace and to come to terms with what was happening,” she says.

When Allison was discharged, her parents brought her to see it. “It made me think as I saw other kids being pushed in wheelchairs by their parents, how awesome it is to be able to have something like that to take your mind of everything you are going through,” says Allison, now 16. Each year when she returns for a checkup, she poses for a picture in front of the tree.

Jeffrey Rothenberg, an obstetrician and gynecologist and chief medical officer at Indiana University Health’s University Hospital, says he learned to make glass art himself as a stress reliever. He is chairman of a public art committee for Indiana University School of Medicine’s Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute that called on artists with ties to Indiana to create works for a building devoted to vision.

“People sent in a lot of great pictures, but some of them were blurry or misty mornings”—not the best visuals, Dr. Rothenberg says, for “people getting their eyes dilated so they can’t see.”

The committee has chosen a range of works aimed at promoting healing and providing comfort, mostly purchased and some donated after the works were selected, including a glass wall sculpture and mobile by Dr. Rothenberg that he donated. Images in health-care settings shouldn’t be shocking, Dr. Rothenberg says, yet “at the same time you don’t want something so boring and generic that people walk away.”

The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., chooses art to create a “healing environment,” says Chrysanthe Yates, director of its Lyndra P. Daniel Center for Humanities in Medicine.

Despite artistic merit, not all works fit the bill. For example, the hospital passed on an option to display a show of works about the Vietnam War, “which were beautiful but very stark and for obvious reasons not appropriate,” she says.

Mayo also exhibits pieces on loan from Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. The institutions are collaborating on a program for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their caregivers, who meet at the museum for conversations about art works as a means of soothing and relieving stress. A research study is planned to measure those effects.

For more information, contact Laura Landro.