NEWS | December 11, 2019

VIDEO: The Art of Healing

How UC Davis Health's art collection enriches lives


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The UC Davis Health art collection offers comfort, reflection, healing and peace. In waiting rooms, lobbies, corridors and other public spaces around the Sacramento-based health system, the collection is designed to enrich the lives of the thousands of patients, families, students and staff who encounter portions of it each day.

The art acquisition program began in 1983. Today, it includes more than 2,600 original works by California artists.

From the 32-foot-high terra cotta tiled waterfall in the lobby of UC Davis Medical Center to a tiny 12x12- inch acrylic and beeswax collage in a department waiting area, the artwork varies far beyond color and subject. It can be a photo, painting or even a metal sculpture greeting people near the entrances of buildings.

Adding a unique scene to a wall or suspending a colorful glass mobile from the ceiling can transform a bland clinical space or expansive building lobby. Glancing at a unique art piece can transport our minds to another place and another time.

“Artwork has the ability to stimulate the imagination and elevate the human spirit,” said Susan J. Willoughby, the health system’s first art advisor who wrote a book about the collection. “And in an academic health environment, art has the power to promote serenity and encourage healing and learning.”


The glass and stainless steel sculpture “Emergence,” by area artist Roger Berry, soars above the Education Building near UC Davis Medical Center.

The benefits of art in a health care setting don’t just arise from warm and fuzzy concepts. There’s actual research to back it up in the nursing and medical literature. Studies suggest that art in the clinical care environment improves patient outcomes and workplace satisfaction. It may have an impact on patient stress levels, mood, pain and sleep. And it can play an important role in staff health and job satisfaction.

The artworks at UC Davis Health are curated like a museum. Labels adjacent to the pieces include the artist’s name and materials. Every painter, sculptor, ceramicist and photographer is local to California. Each reflects the rich diversity and talent of the state and local area.

The art collection further represents that commitment to providing Northern California with the highest quality patient care. It truly adds to the health care environment. By design, UC Davis Health facilities are, like its employees, welcoming, nurturing and certainly curative.

It’s all in the art – and science – of healing!