The Purpose of Art for Healthcare Spaces

Art sets the tone for healing in healthcare


Art offers a welcome distraction for patients in a clinical setting where so much of their attention is on illness, injury, and pain. However, not all types of art are suited for healthcare. Understanding how to select art for healthcare facilities can be daunting, especially when you consider it’s innate ability to promote—or impede—healing. Understanding what kind of art has the potential to help patients and improve the overall aesthetic of a space is essential.

From geographic location and existing architecture to the type of patients you serve and services you provide, there is a lot to think about. For example, newer hospitals might choose a mixture of colorful abstract and soothing contemporary biophilia, while senior assisted living and memory care communities may favor more traditional pieces like landscapes or art meant to evoke fond memories of years past.

How to select art for healthcare


The healthcare art consultants at Kevin Barry Fine Art specialize in curating one-of-a-kind luxury art that reflects your culture and values, resonates with the people in your care, and helps improve the overall aesthetic quality of your space. We use a mixture of biophilia, nature photography, colorful paintings, graphic wall coverings, sculptures, artifacts, abstract pieces, playful, interactive designs, and more.

We understand the healthcare industry and care about the people you serve. Here are just some of the guidelines we recommend when selecting art for healthcare:


  • Art should be inherently positive and welcoming.
  • All nature and wildlife scenes should be bright, calming, and serene.
  • Realism is generally preferred though impressionist works may be considered (if the subject is recognizable).
  • Subjects should be crisp and clear (never blurry).
  • Stock photography and mass produced artwork should be avoided.
  • Architectural photography should have interesting composition and evoke positive emotions.


  • Color palettes should be warm, inviting, and inspired by nature.
  • Cool tones should be mixed with warm tones to encourage positive emotion.
  • Vibrant, warm colors may evoke anxiety and should be used sparingly.

Positive, upbeat art creates a distraction from pain


Hospitalized individuals are likely to interpret art through the lens of their own stress or anxiety. Drawing attention away from pain is one of the most commonly used strategies for controlling it. More and more healthcare facilities are beginning to employ various types of artwork to support this strategy. Art ranging from abstract and figurative paintings, photographs, custom mixed media pieces, playful interactive designs, ceramics wall galleries, and sculptures give patients something to focus on aside from pain or discomfort.

Art has the power to reconnect patients to the outside world


If you’ve enjoyed time in nature, you most likely understand its healing abilities first hand. The fresh air, natural light, and sounds work in harmony to bring many people a sense of peace. Reconnecting with nature through artwork can have a similarly powerful and positive effect on patients with symptoms of depression, pain and anxiety.

When patients look at a beautiful sculpture, painting, or photograph of nature it reconnects them to the outside world and evokes feelings of joy and comfort. This type of nature-centric art, or biofilia, has also shown to shorten recovery times, which is one of the many reasons nature art is preferred by healthcare professionals.

Art bathes walls and alcoves in healing color


Just as the type of artwork you choose affects positive healing in patients, so does its color palette. It’s important to look at each space and the things that occur there to ensure you’re doing what’s best for the people who will use it.

Color palettes filled with healing hues inspired by nature can provide a sense of relaxation for many patients. However, it’s important to balance cool colors with warm, neutral tones, which are associated with feelings of happiness. Vibrant reds and yellows are commonly associated with stress and anxiety, so it’s best to limit these colors and select muted tones, particularly when selecting abstract art.

Curating beauty that’s grounded in evidence-based design


The healthcare art consultants at KBFA have more than 20 years’ experience using scientific, research-based knowledge to curate or commission the right kind of evidence-based artwork for your facility. We work with healthcare professionals in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco to improve patient and staff well-being, patient healing, and reduce stress.

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