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Edward Hospital Art

Edward Hospital Art: Not just Hanging Around

Angela Graefenhain, The Magic of Van Gogh on Roscoe

By Anthony Brass

Out in Naperville at Edward Hospital art is being collected for more than aesthetic reasons. Their carefully selected artwork has been attributed to the mind, body and soul—but especially for the mind.

Candace Olander is the coordinator of healing arts at Edward Hospital. She has used her keen eye and acute sensibilities with art to obtain the best works for the walls within a setting where medicine and confinement—and not paintings—take a higher priority.

Olander was brought in by the Hospital in 2002 to figure out how to add fine arts into Edward’s as an underlying form of care for the patients.

“We wanted to put (artwork) in a different light than every other hospital, to make us more special,” Olander says.

The project started with rotation galleries and bringing in live music. The galleries were placed in high-traffic areas with local artists’ work.

“I will not ask an artist to put his/her work over here and put it ‘behind a door,’” she says.

The hospital started doing projects in conjunction with the remodeling of the complex. Edward is one of the largest hospitals in the DuPage County area.

“We had had several artists in here who had exhibited. We knew how our community responded to those artists. We were working directly with local artists. It was a win-win-win situation,” Olander says.

The hospital pays the artist a fair price with the program operated in-house. When a new project is started all parties go in with feedback.

“We go to a department; see what their needs are.”

In addition to Olander’s fine-tuned tastes in art, she also says there’s good information on online as a resource too.

Gordan France, St. James Gig

“I’ll pull the information up and I’ll look at the type of area we’re having (done). I’ll see which of my artists we have displayed here and what, and how the feedback has been. And then I’ll take what we have and present it to the departments. Usually I work with the construction area and with someone in the department. Between the three of us, we work on what we want to achieve and how much money we have to do with it,” she says of the detailed process.

“I like to keep the art fluid—kind of the ‘same,’” she says. I want people to walk in that area and say, ‘I’m in the right place.’ I don’t want a hodge-podge. I don’t think that’s soothing.”

Olander will devote one floor to “brights,” paintings with positive hues, and another floor will be watercolors only, so a theme corresponds to a particular floor.

“I try and use them not only to help soothe the patients, but also directionally,” she says. “So I like things to be interesting enough so that they don’t become wallpaper. I like them to be specific so that you don’t get confused.”

The patients’ combination of convalescence and artwork can evoke a pleasing time or remembrance in their life—many of which, involving other people. Subjects within a painting can release a positive emotion, sometimes more than an ordinary, or arbitrary landscape. Edward Hospital’s choice for theses works are clearly represented on the walls.

“I think a human connection within a setting is better; it’s more gripping and interesting if people are there,” she says.

Some of Olander’s choices include a setting with kids picking berries, a man calmly walking a horse and musicians playing music around a fountain.

“(We want) to take them to a better place. It reminds them of their grandkids, or anyone. You need something in there that you want to go to,” Orlander says.

Edward Hospital is continuing to undo a lot of the older stereotypical artwork selections, which included static prints that consistently match from wall to wall, floor to floor.

Ann Hanley, Big Fish II

“They were just all the same,” Olander adds. “They would give a storyboard, and you could pick six of them—but they were all the same thing. This was pretty standard.”

The hospital even had work in the past that would match the upholstery and carpeting in the rooms. Olander came in and said the hospital needs work with more life. Working with different artists has broken that trend.

She admitted there was some difficulty at first when people weren’t used to paintings that were unorthodox and not all framed at the exact same size. But eventually the departments saw the light and continued to work together to bring a heightened and diverse view to artwork.

She guides the departments to maximize the viewing experience. Olander also personally meets with the prospective local artists and works with them when there’s great interest in purchasing.

“These are local people. They are very excited to be recognized in their communities. They’re very pleased to not only hang their art here, but to have us come back and purchase it—everybody’s happy.

“If you aren’t buying art that doesn’t jump off the walls, save your money. Move your art; let it speak to people. Let it be something someone wants to wander in,” Olander proclaims.

The escapism and the projecting of the minds of patients and non-patients alike to another place is the innate goal of art. The patient is released from their current status, thus promoting healing within the mind.

“Whether they love it or don’t love it, if they are talking about it, it’s doing its job. Let’s bring in different artists and styles. But let’s keep them organized in a way that the (works) become directive and comforting.”