ARTS: Artful Healing

When Integris Health Edmond opened October 3, it opened not only its doors but its walls – walls adorned with more than 200 art pieces by Oklahoma City-based Kalida Art, a company that was founded on the idea of bringing together unique images to tell a story.“Our art pieces are all photographs,” said co-owner Randy Alvarado. “We are passionate about photos, and feel they are the best medium for walls, especially within the health care industry.” And with only a few exceptions, the photos are of nature. And Alvarado’s business partner, longtime photographer Mike Klemme, shot nearly all the images within a 20-mile radius of the hospital.“

Integris designed (the building) to bring the outside in, and we wanted to continue that plan through the art selection,” said Alvarado. “We wanted to pull the beautiful area surrounding the facility inside the building. Nature is… where we feel the most comfortable. If I told you to close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel the most calm and happy, you would likely envision something in nature — a beach, a mountain, a field of flowers. Those places are our happy places.”The Kalida process is what Alvarado and Klemme refer to as “artistic alchemy,” a combination of the physical imagery with the spiritual connection to that imagery. The process starts, Alvarado emphasized, with listening. “We ask the client what message they want their space to convey and then we dig deeper,” he said. “We help them use their wall space to tell their story.”

To help tell Integris’ story, a large close-up image of blowing grass titled “Fox Tail” is hung prominently in the main lobby. The piece is divided into four panels, each 4-foot by 8-foot. Installed on short metal mounts, the pieces sit a few inches away from the wall to enhance their three-dimensional appearance. Another image, “Spring Wheat,” shows a wheat field with a storm cloud growing overhead. At the far edge of the photo is a rain shower, while the rest of the image is sunny, illustrating for hospital visitors that while they might be in the rain at the moment, the big picture is still bright.

Every piece through-out the facility was carefully selected. And while the images are all separate art pieces, they are mounted and framed the same, and hung at the same height to provide continuity. “The closer the ‘hospital’ gets to the patient, the closer the patient gets to nature, literally,” said Alvarado. For example, each of the five conference rooms (used by employees) is themed with different schools and their winning athletic histories, encouraging the employees to succeed. Yet, wrapping around the curved wall of the registration area— an area where patients first have contact with the hospital—is a large nature installation revealing pink wildflowers. 

The art gets even more personal in the Women’s Center. In each of the birthing rooms, Alvarado and Klemme selected a very close-up image of a single flower, trying to give the patient a focal point. And along the halls of the Women’s Center, Alvarado sprinkled images of animals and their babies, an illustration of family and nurturing. “We walked through the facility for a couple of hours every day for days before we selected the art,” Alvarado said. “We wanted to see, to feel, who was going to be there and what was expected of them.”

Other images at Integris include those of frozen water, leaves and flowers; and more distant shots of plowed fields, lakes and sunsets. All are clear, colorful, meaningful and beautiful. And they make a difference. “We want to help be a part of the healing process. If patients can find a little comfort or distraction, the ability to mentally get away for even a moment, then we have done our job. The artwork is the emotional shoelaces that tie the space together.” For more information about Kalida Art, visit their website

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