Original Art in Every Hospital Room in Vermont: A Philanthropic Legacy

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June 20, 2016; Vermont Public Radio

Near the end of her life, Susan Sebastian spent a great deal of time, as many do, in hospital rooms where she longed for something other than the TV and the bare walls to look at. So, upon her death and in her honor, her mother, Elise Braun, started a foundation to buy original, work submitted by Vermont artists and have pieces installed in every hospital room in the state. Artists submitted their work to be vetted, and pieces depicting scenes from the outdoors were given preference.

Seven years later, with the gift of 54 paintings to Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington, the Susan Sebastian Foundation has completed its mission.

Each hospital installation cost approximately $50,000 on average. Deb Clark, a friend of Sebastian’s, says the endeavor sounded impossible at first: “I just kind of thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what an undertaking.’ This is a huge thing. Is this really going to occur? And it has.”

Dr. Esther Sternberg, who wrote a book about how architecture and physical spaces can aid in healing, commented that this is the biggest project to bring fine art to hospitals she’s ever seen. “There are studies in the literature looking at the impact of art on wellbeing,” she said, “People look at one room in one hospital. A hallway. They don’t look at 1,200 beds across an entire state. […] This is amazing to me.”—Ruth McCambridge