Art is a healing comfort at CMH

CMH puts the focus on art in hospital 

“Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler, actress (1901-1992)

Art is visible from almost every location at CMH. 

Constance Waisanen, a local artist and the president of the CMH Board of Trustees, says the art at CMH is integral to healing.

“The board felt it was a very important part of the Planetree process,” Waisanen says. “It was important for us to use local artists.”

In addition to sculptures, murals and paintings throughout the buildings, there are five hospital gardens, including the Health and Wellness Park, which features a labyrinth for meditation and relaxation. An activity room and art cart are available to patients in the hospital, and art therapy classes are offered periodically. 

Caregivers aren’t left out either, since art can be healing for anyone. Visiting artists have taught workshops for employees, and caregivers are given time at retreats and celebrations to work on murals, rock painting or other creative activities. They are also invited to show their own work at art shows, and some caregiver artworks have become permanent installations at the hospital. 

Human expression and interaction

Local ceramicist Richard Rowland has been creating pottery for CMH for more than 10 years. He has made many pieces for CMH, including a decorative pot for the Astoria Primary Care Clinic, a clay mural for the side of the Cancer Collaborative and a newly unveiled sculpture sitting in the center of the outdoor labyrinth.

Rowland says the hospital’s use of art, and local artwork especially, has long-lasting effects. 

“You’re not just going out and buying art,” he says. “To me, that’s what makes it special and more powerful. Art in the hospital is probably as important as Western medicine. If you look at all cultures, from way back, art was a daily part of people’s lives in some way or another. It’s a necessary part of being part of a community or being human – to be expressive and offer ways for people to interact with each other.”

In a medical setting, art serves to create an uplifting environment that focuses on well-being rather than illness. Chris Laman, Director of the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative, agrees with that perspective and says the purpose of artwork and art workshops for caregivers is to find ways to continuously use art in healing.

“These types of collaborations are really how we are going to make our community a healthier place,” Laman says.