Inspire Arts Program: Art for health’s sake

Inspiring hope, inspiring healing

Hennepin County Medical Center has been a regional leader in incorporating arts programming into patient care. In 2012, we were highlighted by the National Association of Public Hospitals for our integration of the arts into the healthcare environment. HCMC's arts programming is conceived and administered by its Inspire Arts program, now in its 10th year of service. A multi-disciplinary program, Inspire Arts annually stages 8 exhibits featuring local artists that engage patients, visitor and employees and provide a visual oasis from the healthcare environment. We bring a mobile art activity cart to patient rooms, an artist in residence to work 1:1 in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, present 15 musical concerts in public and patient areas each year, and host workshops, cultural events, and other performances for patients, staff, and visitors.

Inspire Arts Artist with Patient Photo

By increasing engagement with the arts through Inspire Arts, HCMC uses the healing power of arts within a healthcare setting. The arts help humanize the healthcare experience, build personal resources and coping skills, and helps patient use less pain medication and heal faster. Because the majority of HCMC patients are challenged by the co-factors of poverty, additional supports have been shown to be key to helping in their recovery and long-term health maintenance of health. Visual art exhibits, musical performances, art workshops, and special engagement opportunities are all designed to enhance the healing environment.

Changing the Healthcare Experience

Through thoughtful use of the arts, Inspire Arts is creating an environment that is patient-centered and family focused – an environment that will have a positive effect on the way patients, families, staff and community members view their experience at HCMC.

Patient Centered Care. As part of HCMC’s Patient Experience Services department, Inspire Arts is integrated into hospital care and services. In this way, the program strives to complement and support holistic patient care and healing. The consistent messages of patient-centered care, comfort and empowerment reverberate throughout the facility through sensory-rich elements and images.

Inspire Arts Watercolors Closeup Photo

Patient and Family Support Through the Arts. The arts also reflects the diversity of HCMC’s community, creating connections through the shared human experience. Patient and family programming consists of bedside and waiting room art activities, including an art cart wheeled to patient rooms. The purpose of these activities is the journey, not the result. Personal self-expression and creativity provide patients a window of calm transformation that can transport them outside of their pain and circumstances. The activities are modeled after similar successful programs worldwide and built on evidence of positive effects on patients, such as a recent study that showed the beneficial effects of exploration with clay on Parkinson’s patients.

Engage and Renew. Public and employee arts programming includes both community- and employee-based art exhibits, workshops, artist receptions and talks, experiential events and concerts. Art exhibits are located in four areas of the hospital and rotated quarterly. Music concerts are held in lobbies and patient areas to help lift and renew those in need.


An artist-in-residence to work one-on-one and in small groups with patients in our Comprehensive Cancer Center and Pediatric, Medicine and Rehabilitation units. Through access to the arts and guidance from a teaching artist, patients receive much-needed relief and distraction from the anxiety, pain, and boredom that is often associated with a hospital stay. Engagement with the arts provides them with a way to become absorbed in their own creative process. This program is made possible by generous donations from individuals and the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Inspire Arts Musicians Photo

Music Therapy

We are piloting a new music therapy program in 2014 that brings therapeutic interventions to patients in our Comprehensive Cancer Center. Funded by LiveSTRONG Foundation, a licensed music therapist will facilitate relaxation, decrease anxiety and stress, enhance wellness, improve pain management and provide comfort and support for cancer patients and their caregivers. Our program will be a replication of the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program of Morristown Medical Center.

Our Vision

Inspire Arts supports patient and family-centered care at Hennepin County Medical Center by providing a variety of art forms to ease suffering and stress, promote healing, and improve the experience for patients, families, employees, and the members of our community. Inspire Arts will be planned, coordinated and sustained to ensure full integration into hospital care and services. Program goals are to:

Inspire Arts Brushworks Group Photo
  • Complement and support holistic patient care and healing – addressing physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual needs.
  • Strive to comfort and empower patients, family and employees, and help reduce stress, fear and anxiety.
  • Integrate sensory-rich elements and images into the environment, providing life-giving vitality and warmth.
  • Reinforce a positive, consistent message of patient- and family-centered care throughout the facility.
  • Partner with patients, families and the community to create opportunities for connections and an environment that positively impacts their experience.
  • Reflect and celebrate diversity in the context of both our shared human experiences and our wide range of personal backgrounds and preferences.
  • Be evidence-based with a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Provide interactive opportunities for connections between patients, families, employees, and the community.

Here to comfort

Stories of hope, comfort, and connection are made possible through Inspire Arts. In the face of illness, change, and distress, it is often the small, intimate touches that can make all the difference.

A family anxiously waiting for a patient update was calmed by an intimate choir performance in the Intensive Care Unit family waiting room.

A patient suffering severe pain experienced relief "for the first time" during the hour she spent creating art.

A homeless man struggling with multiple barriers felt a moment of pride at completing his "first art work since grade school."

You Can Make a Difference

Inspire Arts programming is funded by charitable donations. With 1,730 patients and their families seeking care each day through our hospitals and clinics, every gift can help provide comfort during times of uncertainty. Make a donation today by calling Hennepin Health Foundation at 612-873-6090 or by making an online donation.

How to Participate

  • Purchase art supplies from our Dickblick wishlist
  • Share ideas and artist referrals with the Arts Program Coordinator by emailing
  • Volunteer for Inspire Arts through Volunteer Services
  • Sponsor a visual art work by a local artist to be displayed in the hospital
  • Purchase a piece of artwork from one of our exhibits
  • Make a tax-deductible donation that is designated for Inspire Arts programming on the Foundation donation page.
  • Donate funds to commission a special work in memory of a loved one
  • Artists may respond to periodic calls for art by mailing their resume, artist statement, and a CD of images (contact information below.)

Stay Connected

Submit your email address here to receive information on volunteer opportunities, artist submissions or donation information.

Contact us

Wenda Lyons Ballinger
Arts Program Coordinator

c/o Patient Experience Services
Hennepin County Medical Center
701 Park Avenue, G2
Minneapolis, MN 55415