Regional art at Sanford Medical Center Fargo enhances healing environment for patients, visitors

From the first moment one steps inside the new Sanford Medical Center Fargo, it's clear that this is no ordinary healthcare facility.Amenities like valet service, a concierge desk, lots of natural light and an overall inviting atmosphere give the...
Kimble Bromley’s calming nature paintings grace the emergency ward of Sanford Medical Center Fargo. Photo courtesy Sanford Health

From the first moment one steps inside the new Sanford Medical Center Fargo, it's clear that this is no ordinary healthcare facility.

Amenities like valet service, a concierge desk, lots of natural light and an overall inviting atmosphere give the center, which opened last summer, an essence of "hospitality" instead of "hospital."

A major component of the welcoming environment is the colorful artwork that adorns the walls on each of the 11 floors.

Kimble Bromley's nature paintings offer a sense of calm in the emergency wing.

Meg Spielman Peldo's photos of swaddled newborns gives an air of new life in the birthing center.

As visitors exit the elevator on each floor, a different piece of art - like Brad Bachmeier's ceramic meadow scene - creates a landmark to help them find their way.

To some, it may seem as if it's "art for art's sake." But the artwork in the 1 million-square-foot facility was just as intentional in the planning as the private rooms, the state-of-the-art medical equipment and the architecture.

Currently, the building's public areas feature approximately 150 original pieces of art by 42 regional artists, including several from Fargo-Moorhead Sanford Health commissioned specifically for the center.

The media range from mosaics to fiber art to watercolor, but the subject matter in every piece follows a similar theme that captures the culture, history and nature of our region.

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This common theme aims to help patients feel more comfortable in an often stressful environment, says arts consultant Ivy Oland, who led the art selection for the Sanford Medical Center Fargo.

"Existing evidence informs us that appropriately selected artwork (in a healthcare setting) can reduce length of stay, improve recovery, reduce need for medication and, in general, provide a positive experience for patients, staff and guests in the facility," Oland says.

More than 1,000 other pieces of art hang throughout the building, although they are not originals, Oland adds.

Oland specializes in corporate art, healthcare art and healing environments and has been an arts consultant for Sanford Health for nearly a decade.

After she helped coordinate artwork for the children's hospital in Sioux Falls, Sanford Health brought Oland on board for the new facility in Fargo when planning began five years ago.

Oland formed an art committee of Sanford employees, executives, construction project members, nurses, environmental professionals and community members to craft guiding principles on what kind of art to display in the building.

"We wanted to ensure we had a broad cross section of people thinking about all situations where people would encounter the art," Oland says.

After the committee issued an art preference survey for art in a healthcare setting, Sanford Health issued a Call for Artists in 2015 with specific guidelines for art that evoked "positive feelings" based on the results.

Oland says evidence indicates when people are in an environment they cannot control, something as simple as a confusing piece of art can add to their stressful experience.

For this reason, no abstract work, aggressive styles, dark shadows, stormy skies or other imagery were accepted.

Justin Swoboda, director of supply chain equipment projects and planning at Sanford Health, served on the art committee. During a private art tour of the building, Swoboda acknowledged that a hospital is often the last place patients (and their loved ones) want to be. "They'd rather be at home," he says.

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This motivated Sanford to build a medical center that went beyond standard care for its patients - right down to the art.

"Through the art commission and selection process, we have images that are relatable and familiar to their home environment, which helps with healing," Swoboda says.

Oland says this has been the goal all along.

"It isn't art for art's sake. It's not just making the building 'pretty,'" she says. "Our objective is to use art as a tool to improve (health-related) outcomes."

Sanford Medical Center Fargo is located at 5225 23rd Ave. S. in Fargo.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit