St. John’s Hospital Art Project




St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital is in the process of being almost completely rebuilt. The finishing touch to any place of healing is beauty and there is strong evidence that fine art can have a significant impact upon the recovery of patients. With that in mind the Hospital is working with Studio Channel Islands to acquire an art collection and to host a series of rotating exhibitions.

The Hospital and Studio Channel Islands have created an art panel to select works for both permanent display and selling through rotating exhibitions. The panel would, therefore, like to invite all artist members of Studio Channel Islands to submit works into a Pop Up exhibition this September. The Pop Up will be curated by Studio Channel Islands, applying the principles of evidence based design. More information will be forthcoming on how and when you can register your interest in submitting work for the show.

The artwork that the panel selects will predominantly be mounted within standard sized frames, though larger or usual sized work may also be considered. The standard sizes that the panel will use are:

  • 20 X 24 inches with option of a 2 ½ inch boarder
  • 24 x 36 inches with option of a 2 ½ inch border

The subject matter that the panel are looking for has been informed by the findings of evidence based design. This is predominantly works depicting nature such as waterscapes, landscapes and still life painting. The role of the arts in promoting healing is well documented and many studies have been undertaken to discern just how fine art can affect people in hospital settings, both positively and negatively.

Within these themes evidence based design suggests the following guidelines for the selection of artwork.


  • With calm or nonturbulent water
  • Recognizable or iconic shore / coastal views


  • With visual depth or open foreground
  • Trees with broad canopy
  • Savannah landscapes
  • Verdant vegetation
  • Positive cultural heritage (e.g., barns and older houses)


  • Healthy, fresh, and bright
  • Gardens with open foreground

Figurative art:

  • Emotionally positive faces
  • Diverse leisure activities
  • Non-threatening animals
  • Children at play

Studies have also shown what to avoid in the selection of artwork in hospitals. People in health settings are often in a state of heightened emotional distress and complex or abstract works are often not suitable. Interviews with patients undertaken in an important 1991 study found a strong negative reaction to artwork that was ambiguous, surreal, or could be interpreted in multiple ways. The same patients, however, reported having positive feelings and associations with respect to nature paintings, those with bright colors and positive compositions. The negative response is likely because when viewers are stressed or in a negative emotional state, which they often are in a healthcare setting, they are likely to respond in a negative manner to art that they cannot quickly understand or that contains obvious negative images such as wilted flowers, derelict buildings or emotionally distressed portraits.

Patient preference was maintained even when the abstract or stylized depictions were of greater market value or popularity in non-health settings. The likely conclusion is that evocative art is not synonymous with the preferred art in health settings, or put another way challenging and complex art may not deliver the restorative impact desired within healthcare settings.

This field of study has evolved considerably over the last three decades into a complex interdisciplinary subject for academic research. Studio Channel Islands is currently working with academic partners to bring together a panel discussion on the subject, as well as broader arts and health talks, to coincide with the Pop Up exhibition.


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