I took a tour of MUSC’s new hospital, the Ashley River Tower, on Friday. It’s an impressive feat of architecture, technology, and design. More than that, it’s a repository of art. And more than that, it’s a repository of art by contemporary South Carolina artists. It opens next month.

Throughout its 641,000 square feet are 873 works of art by 54 S.C. artists in a variety of media: quilts, sweetgrass baskets, sculptures, paintings, Catawba pottery and a bottle cap portrait of famed Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons. There’s even art in every patient room and examination room.

MUSC’s decision to invest in the arts is part of a national trend toward bringing arts and medicine closer together: the medical benefits and the economic benefits by way of creating a “boutique” environment in which patients can heal.

“Art is an important element in setting the tone for a healing environment, and it has been shown to positively influence a number of clinical measures,” said MUSC President Ray Greenberg in a press release issued Jan. 23. “We chose to focus on South Carolina artists to ground the hospital in its native state and to provide a comforting and familiar environment for the patients and families that we serve.”

All funding for the artwork came from private donations. MUSC worked with the Halsey Institute at the College of Charleston to procure, frame, and install the artwork.

“This unique partnership between MUSC and the College of Charleston has allowed for the creation of a remarkable collection of work by South Carolina artists,” said Mark Sloan, director of the Halsey Institute at the College of Charleston, also in a press released issued Jan. 23. “This collection offers a cross-section of some of the best artists in the state today.”

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