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In the News Archive

Barnes-Jewish Hospital starts art program

  • July 22, 2008
  • Number of views: 3407
By Julie Randle, Suburban Journals, July 22, 2008

A hospital can be a difficult place.

Medical staff are faced with death and critical situations on a daily basis. Patients with terminal illnesses reside there for months at a time waiting for a transplant or receiving treatment. Other patients are there for less than 24 hours to have a surgical procedure.

All these situations can be stressful and depressing for staff, patients and families.

Sarah Colby, a former admissions art counselor and art teacher, hopes a new program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital can provide a positive environment, lift spirits and serve as an escape for patients and medical personnel- even if only for a few moments.

Colby is the Arts Healthcare Program coordinator at the hospital. It’s her job to purchase art works, select items as loans from various organizations and institutions, organize exhibitions and arrange for musicians to play in waiting areas.

"Good feelings come from this," she said. "It ripples from staff to families."

The mission of the program is to foster a culture that includes the arts as an integral aspect of the healing environment for patients, families and caregivers.

The hospital is a member of The Society for the Arts in Healthcare, a non-profit corporation founded in 1991. The society believes in demonstrating the valuable roles the arts can play in enhancing the healing process and promoting the use of art in healthcare facilities.

The society has more than 1,700 members including, organizations in both the arts and medicine, hospital and arts administrators, medical staff, artists of various disciplines, therapists, social workers, medical institutions and arts schools.

Cobly, a Holly Hills resident, was hired a year ago to organize and establish the direction of the program, which is funded through a Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation grant. The foundation is a non-profit organization that raises money to support hospital programs.

"The ultimate goal is to integrate arts into the culture of a hospital setting," Colby said.

She has found the adventure challenging, educational and fun.

"This place is crawling with talent - musicians, artists, writers," she said. One aspect of the program involves organizing exhibits for a blue 25-foot wall in a waiting area outside the Center for Pre-Operation Assessment and Planning and Admitting.

"This is a great walk through and has a certain intimacy," Colby said. "I think the garden is a beautiful backdrop."

For the next year Colby will feature only the work of employees on the wall. An article about the program appeared in the hospital’s publication earlier this year, which helped Colby recruit talent. Employees responded by sending her e-mails describing their talents, which has been welcomed by Colby. This is how Colby discovered Michael Daft, a laboratory information systems specialist.

Daft is the first employee to exhibit in the program’s space on the first floor in the Shoenberg Pavilion. His photography exhibition, "Three Historic Parks, Impressions of Tower Grove, Lafayette and Compton Hill Reservoir Parks," went up in mid-June and will be on display until Aug. 15.

One reason Colby selected his works is because she thought his theme of parks would fit in well with the nearby garden.

Daft has been a photographer for more than 30 years. It’s always something he liked to do. He can’t pinpoint what sparked his interest

Daft, a Compton Heights resident, used a Nikon camera to capture his digital images for the exhibit. His color prints of Tower Grove Park pavilions are arranged on top of the exhibition. Down lower are numerous black and white prints of Lafayette Park, Tower Grove Park and Compton Hill Reservoir Park. The exhibit features nearly 20 photographs, which are available for sale. Photos range in price from $225 to $600.

"You photograph what you know and do it well," said Daft, who also enjoys crafting wood furniture.

Daft has photographed houses for house tour brochures and state parks and shot actors and productions for theater companies. Now his focus is on portraits. After Daft retires he would like to concentrate on photography.

For now, he is happy to share his talents with the families and patients that visit the hospital, as well as the employees.

"I believe art is good for people. I believe it should be around," he said. "It enriches a person’s spirit in general. I hope it will enrich patients and nurses experiences in some way."

For more information about the Arts Healthcare Program, call (314) 286-0592 or e-mail [email protected]. For more information about Michael Daft, visit
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