Ottawa Heart Institute taking art therapy to new heights

Patients recovering at the Ottawa Heart Institute no longer have to lie in their beds staring at the ceiling — soon they'll be able to gaze at calming nature scenes instead.

Hospital looking for artists to adorn ceiling tiles with 'calming and comforting' scenes

Scenes like this, painted by Rachel Strauss for Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, could soon adorn the ceiling of the Ottawa Heart Institute. (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre)

Patients recovering at the Ottawa Heart Institute no longer have to lie in their beds staring at the ceiling — soon they'll be able to gaze at comforting nature scenes instead.

The institute is recruiting artists to volunteer their time and talent by adorning some of its ceiling tiles with scenes of lush forests and cool lakes, the kind of image that might instill a sense of calm in a patient awaiting a major medical procedure.

Stephanie Colpitts said she got the idea when her mother-in-law was in long-term care. Her family had decorated her room with artwork from home to make her feel at ease, but when she was lying in bed, there was nothing to look at.

"My sister-in-law said, 'She's spending so much time looking at the ceiling. I really wish that there was something there for her to look at," said Colpitts, the heart institute's quality improvement co-ordinator.


Proven benefit

The Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto had the same idea, and now has nearly 600 painted ceiling tiles. Other health centres are experimenting with the therapy, too.

Researchers say it's making a difference.

Colpitts said she'd like every patient at the Ottawa Heart Institute to have a pleasant painting to look at.

Stephanie Colpitts, quality improvement co-ordinator at the Ottawa Heart Institute, came up with the idea for the art therapy project. (Miriam Katawaz/CBC)

"Each bed bay has one central ceiling tile that we're looking to replace," Colpitts told CBC Radio's All In A Day

"We're looking for artists to paint calm, open, nature-based scenes because studies show that they are proven to be more beneficial to adult patients."

Artists are being asked to submit images of three pieces, along with a note about themselves, by June 3.

The chosen artists will be notified by June 28, and will be given a ceiling tile to beautify.


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