When St. John’s Health held its grand opening, or “homewarming,” for its new Sage Living senior center a few weeks ago, staffers who that day served as tour guides were eager to point out the many works of art that adorn the walls.
More than 50 pieces of art hang throughout Sage Living, seven of them specially commissioned, and while the average passerby might stop for a moment to enjoy them, they serve a greater purpose for Sage Living’s residents.
“It was important to us to have local and regional artists representing a strong sense of place,” said Blair Christy, Sage Living’s director of patient experience. “Art has the power to connect people, reduce anxiety, create conversation and connect one’s memories. In Sage the art ties the neighborhoods together, serves as wayfinding pieces and creates a home-like feel.”
Indeed, one wall in one of the facility’s “neighborhoods,” as the different living areas of the center are called, is covered with paintings depicting different homes, ranging from rustic farmsteads to cozy cabins to more conventional urban houses. The collection is not only intentional with its subject matter, it also serves a therapeutic purpose, said Seth Robertson, the director of operations at Sage Living, and Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly.
“In 2017, when we started working to get community support through SPET [the specific purpose excise tax] for this project, we introduced the idea of ‘a new home for a new age,’” Connelly said. “So it’s fun and nice for people to look at — pictures that might remind somebody of places they might have lived before.”
The idea of art as a healing aspect for Sage Living wasn’t conceived until 2017. It grew out of the “Art and Healing Program” at St. John’s Health, created in 2016 as part of a collaboration between Jackson Hole Public Art and the community hospital to update its art collection and display policies, Connelly said. The goals of Art and Healing — to show work that promotes healing and wellness — is founded on evidence-based criteria, according to St. John’s.
The program has expanded to become a collaboration between St. John’s Health Foundation, the Office of Patient Experience, St. John’s Health Art Committee and the Center for the Arts’ Theater Gallery Program.
“In 2019 this partnership prepared to explore art options for the forthcoming Sage Living facility at St. John’s Health,” Connelly wrote in an email. “As is common in many of our homes the presence of art would ensure a sense of place and meaning for our residents as they adjust to their new home. With this in mind the collaborative chose to invite JH Public Art to the table to further elevate their collective expertise.”
As important as the artwork is to the residents at Sage Living — both for their enjoyment and for their mental health — visitors appreciate it equally.
“I was very touched seeing the art on the walls of Sage Living yesterday,” said Maggie Moore, a St. John’s Health Art Committee member, after attending the Sage Living Homewarming event on Aug. 11. “I feel so proud of our work as a committee, and it feels really good to know that the residents get to live with such a wonderful, eclectic art collection that represents our incredible community of talented artists.”
John Goettler, president of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation, agreed: “The submissions from the artists were incredible, heartfelt and inspiring. The connection artists felt to this project was strong, and it shows in the concepts and pieces they submitted.” ￼