Vibrant, colorful shapes guide visitors down the main corridor toward the information desk at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Eskenazi Health Center.
Above the waiting area hangs a winding, wood sculpture crafted by world-renowned artist Aaron Stephan -- one of 19 artists whose work is on display throughout the hospital.
"We made sure to bring in a diversity of artists and artworks that would reflect the diversity of our patients," said Michael Kaufmann, director of special projects and civic investment for Eskenazi Health. "We emphasized creating environments over pieces on a wall."
The people at Eskenazi Health believe in and care about treating the whole person, according to Kaufmann. Moreover, they strongly consider that the power of art can affect the mind and soul. From the architectural design of the buildings to the outdoor landscape and the artwork -- it all works in unison, creating a community of wellness that is intended to stimulate mind, body and spirit.
Indianapolis poet Mitchell Douglas said the vision of the new hospital is what moved him to participate.
"It's one of the most important things about being involved in this project," said Douglas. "My art is involved in a facility run by people who understand the healing power of art."
An excerpt from one of his poems lines the barrier-free pool outside the hospital. It reads, "the obscure is revealed."
Another local artist recruited to get involved in the art program is Tim Ryan.
His piece entitled "Balance," located in the ophthalmology waiting area, explores different textures, shapes and depths. Patients can experience this beautiful creation through sense of sight and touch.
"Art contributes to somebody's well-being," said Ryan. "It was very gratifying to be part of something larger than myself. It was all done with the specific purpose of wellness."
A Rich History of Art
The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Health Center opened on Dec. 7, 2013. The art program was established well beforehand.
Art has always been part of the hospital's past. To trace the inspiration for this massive display at Eskenazi Health campus, we turn to William Forsyth. Forsyth, the first ever student at the Indiana School of Art in Indianapolis, was instrumental in founding the Herron School of Art. He had a real zest for cultivating public art in the Hoosier State. In 1914, Forsyth recruited a dozen Hoosier artists to paint 33 murals throughout the old Indianapolis City Hospital.
In his 1916 essay entitled "Art in Indiana," Forsyth wrote: "To live out-of-doors in intimate touch with nature, to feel the sun, to watch the ever changing face of the landscape, where waters run and winds blow and trees wave and clouds move, and to walk with all the hours of the day and into the mysteries of night through all the seasons of the year -- this is the heaven of the Hoosier Painter."
According to Kaufmann, the legacy of Forsyth is, in part, what inspired the art program.
Eventually the art committee commissioned 19 artists -- many of whom are Hoosiers or Indiana residents -- to create Eskenazi's own Hoosier heaven, paying tribute to Forsyth's impassioned vision.
The result is a hospital with character, with a feel that energizes, soothes and inspires. It wraps you in its warm embrace and empathizes with you no matter who you are, where you are from, or the reason for your visit.
"It has a lasting effect on any visitor of the hospital," said Douglas.
And just as any new and progressive medical care facility must expand to meet the needs of its patients, this hospital and health center's art program will continue to expand over time. The next piece, located on the south inner-wall of the parking garage, is set to be finished this spring.