Design of University of Kentucky’s New Hospital Includes a Healthy Dose of Art

June 3, 2009

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services – Unrestricted

Rich Copley

June 01, 2009

John Reyntiens developed his glass work for the chapel in the University of Kentucky’s (UK) new hospital with a keen sense of where it would be displayed.

“I didn’t want it to be mechanical,” Reyntiens said on the morning of May 22, showing samples of his work for the Myra Leigh Tobin Chapel at the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center. “People who are here will spend a lot of time around machines and medical equipment.

“It’s important for people to have places to take time out and meditate and be quiet.”

Reyntiens’ Springtime in Kentucky is one of many pieces of art being commissioned and bought for the new hospital, which is under construction and is expected to start opening in phases in 2010.

“The art is my favorite part of this project,” says Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK. “It humanizes the building.”

In filling the building with artwork, Karpf says, the hospital is taking cues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and the Cleveland Clinic, which have made art a big part of their designs.

By incorporating art, both visual and performing, Karpf says, the hospital becomes more inviting and comforting for patients. The art is selected to reflect Kentucky. One piece, a 90-footEmultimedia wall at the entrance, will be a constantly changing display of images from across the commonwealth.

The idea is to move away from a traditional, sterile hospital environment to something warmer and more conducive to healing. Karpf also talks about establishing music therapy and art therapy programs at the hospital.

“It’s incredible what art and music do for people,” Karpf says, showing a virtual tour of the hospital.

In addition to visual art, the hospital will have a 300-seat, state-of-the-art education and performance theater, financed by the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation. All of the art initiatives in the hospital are privately financed, Karpf says.

If patients can’t make it to the theater for the performances, they can watch them through high-definition TV transmission in their rooms. Many performances will be open to the public.

“We’d like to get people in here when they aren’t sick,” Karpf says. “That way, if they do have to be treated, it will seem more familiar.”

“Art plays a very serious role in making you feel all right and healing,” Reyntiens says. “It's an honor to be part of that.”

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