An Unexpected Place to Sell Your Art? Hospitals.

Artwork Archive | August 16, 2018 (Updated April 12, 2021)

Did you know that your local hospital could be your next art opportunity?

Hospitals can be a great place for you to market and sell your artwork. According to the Arts and Health Alliance, 56% of all hospitals, hospices and nursing centers use parts of their operating budgets to buy paintings and sculptures.

Here are a few reasons to consider your local hospital for your next exhibition venue.

You have a captivated audience in a hospital.

In contrast to museums, medical centers are open 24/7 and receive much more foot traffic. Duke University Hospital has 700-800 people in its hallways every hour. That’s a lot of exposure to your artwork!

Additionally, those that enter a hospital may be reluctant to set foot inside a museum or gallery, so you have access to a new audience.

“It’s remarkable to see people physically stop and do an about turn to view an impactful piece of artwork,” says Tom Huck, Art Curator at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Some hospitals even have art tours. “You don’t think of art tours in hospitals, we are happy to offer them. Hundreds of people are discovering our unique collection on a daily basis,” says Tom.

Duke University Hospital has three different self-guided art tours of the permanent collection. They are designed spaces for reflection and quiet because many families can be in a waiting room for over a week.

Joyful Health by Eleatta Diver, part of the Duke University Hospital permanent collection. Photo credit: Arts & Health at Duke. 

Hospitals hire curators to purchase artwork for their permanent collection.

Many hospital art collections operate like galleries in that they either have a staff or hire art advisors to acquire artworks. Most of the works purchased are 2D because wall space is so prevalent (hospitals are huge!), but many hospitals also collect sculptural works.

Some hospital collections are massive. For instance, Duke’s collection has over 4,000 works and the hospital has been collecting since the mid-1970's.

Heidi Huisjen, the arts coordinator at Children's Hospital Colorado, has a budget to purchase works for retiring directors of the board. Her goal is to find a piece that speaks to the individuality of that director whether it be a print of a kangaroo for someone's love of Australia, or a black and white diptych for another's adoration of photography. 

Many curators and art advisors seek out works of art by attending art fairs and gallery openings. Tom frequently attends art fairs with private donors as many of them wish to purchase a piece for the hospital or donate funds for him to acquire a specific artist or artwork.

Hospitals also purchase from their own temporary exhibits. Dartmouth-Hitchcock sometimes acquires works from the shows in their eight rotating art spaces. If Marianne Barthel, Director of the Arts Program, hears positive feedback about a piece and it fits well into an aesthetic theme within the hospital, she'll gladly purchase it for the permanent collection when the need for new art arises. 

Hospitals commission public art projects.

Medical Centers commission a variety of different types of public art projects–from small 2D works to massive atrium-sized sculptural works. There may be an opportunity for you!

You can search for public art RFQs on Artwork Archive’s Call-for-Entry page.

Many hospitals focus on local art.

When asked how she acquires pieces, Mandy Kron, art coordinator for The Arts in Health Care Program at UW Hospital, asserts that she first and foremost buys from local artists. She attends art-related events in the community to look out for new artists.

She continues, “Sometimes I get cold calls to check out their work online. I don’t mind that approach. It’s a good idea for artists to put me on their newsletter and to check in and tell me about their new work.”

Jennifer Collins-Mancour, Visual Arts Program Director at Arts & Health at Duke, echoes the same approach. “Since our collection’s beginning, we have focused on North Carolina artists. When we acquire, we look for North Carolina artists.” The Duke program, like other hospitals, often puts out a call for local artists, so stay tuned to local calls in your area!

Participate in a temporary art exhibit.

It’s worth asking your hospital if they have rotating exhibitions in their public spaces. Many programs do. For instance, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center has a dedicated gallery space for hosting rotating exhibitions by regional artists. This also gives an artist the opportunity to sell their work. This type of venue allows your work to be seen by a very wide demographic.

And even better, you can typically sell your works in these rotating exhibits. Tom asserts that “many hundreds of people can see your artwork” in shows like his. 

Art cart visit at Michigan Medicine. Photo by BTN LiveBIG.

Some hospitals integrate arts programming into their services.

Institutions, like the UCSF Medical Center, have an art recovery program in which patients can go and make art with artists. It helps patients work through what they are going through, to process the traumatic in their lives.

And, if a patient cannot leave their room, the Gift of Art program at Michigan Medicine at University of Michigan brings art to the patients. Their Art Cart program is a lending library of framed poster art. Volunteers take colorful carts of framed posters to patient floors and offer patients a selection of artwork to display in their rooms. Often these works become valued "companions." And, patients can purchase works that have become companions during their hospital visit; Gifts of Art sells artists' work in their nine rotating galleries.

Contact your local medical center to see if they are in need of volunteers.

To learn more about integrating arts in healthcare, check out the incredible work of the National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH). Their mission is to advance the field of arts in health, and they provide digital resources as well as in-person events.

Be part of the healing process.

Sure, there’s the monetary value of selling your art to hospital collections, but there is also the incredibly rewarding feeling that your work is providing solace and support to those in need.

“Having artwork in the hospital made me feel human again,” proclaimed a patient at Duke University Hospital.

Art humanizes the clinical space; it brings beauty. Art provides a much-needed distraction in a hospital setting— it inspires.

Present your artwork professionally to your local hospital with Artwork Archive’s Portfolio Pages.

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