Hospital and Art Museum Team Up in Art for Heart Program

One local hospital is taking note of a Swedish study that shows heart surgery patients can benefit from landscape paintings. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The study found that heart surgery patients experienced less anxiety and needed fewer doses of strong pain medication after being exposed to landscape paintings. So Memorial Hermann has teamed up with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for the "Art for Heart" program. MFAH Marketing and Public Relations Associate Director Andrew Huang says science is now backing up art.

"I've always believed personally that art and performing art as well as visual arts have served as inspiration to people throughout history otherwise we wouldn't have seen all this wonderful art created over the centuries so the fact that there is scientific backing that art can cause people to reflect and give them comfort to me is not a surprise."

Memorial Hermann heart surgery patients can choose among four landscape paintings ... they include Claude Monet's Water Lilies, John Frederick Kensett's Distant View of the Mansfield Mountain. There's also William Merritt Chase's Sunlight and Shadow and Paul Signac's The Bonaventure Pine. Memorial Hermann Cardiac Nurse Liaison Judith Farmer says patients make connections with the paintings.

John Frederick Kensett's Distant View of the Mansfield Mountain"The one that's the picture of Mount Mansfield in Vermont, I had a patient who said, I enjoy the outdoors, I like to camp, I like to hike and I can see myself camped under the tree, so when he was experiencing discomfort or he was feeling sorry for himself or whatever the circumstances were he would just look at the picture and he visioned himself traveling that depth and that distance he saw in the picture and it gave him a great deal of comfort and and helped him to relax."

A reproduction of the painting is put in the patients' rooms. The paintings are used in other materials that are in the hospital including Healing Note cards that families and friends use to leave messages for the patient. Farmer says the patients are also given an eight by ten reproduction to take home. She says patients often know exactly where they will hang the painting before they are released from the hospital.

"Any time you have a cardiac crisis, whether it's intervention by way of stents or whether it's open heart surgery, it is a life changing experience and I think anything we can do to enhance the recovery and to make this unpleasant experience as pleasant as possible the patient and his family are entitled to that."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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