Photo a Day – Along the Swatara

April 12, 2014 – Fog and water. Sunrise. Birdsong. A morning to take specific delight in being alive. This was the way the Swatara Creek in Middletown  looked shortly after 7 a.m. this morning, when Jay, the pups and me went for a morning walk.

Photo a Day - Along the Swatara

Along the Swatara

Time to take your medicine!

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center's Center Stage

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Center Stage

Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine sharing art to promote wellness

By Christine Goldbeck, MFA-IA

HERSHEY, PA – Many of us hear the word “hospital” and we get those butterfly feelings in our bellies.  It does not have to be this way. Just ask Claire de Boer, who runs a program that offers live performance and visual arts shows at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine in Central Pennsylvania.

As program director for Center Stage, de Boer has spent the last few years cultivating regional visual artists and musicians to share their talents with patients, their families and friends, and the medical center staff.  Paintings, by regional artists, brighten waiting areas, clinical spaces and patient rooms. Four times a week, live local musicians, professionals and students, play for the many who walk through those areas. It’s about healing, about relieving stress, sadness, worry and the other emotions we often feel when we are in a hospital.

Center Stage at Hershey Medical Center

Mary-Kate and Grace Lee of Seasons Music

“While I was waiting in oncology, the harp music gave such peace, a sense of well-being and calm,” one patient said, adding “A very nice touch for such a hard time in our lives. Do this always!”

It’s no secret that art heals. More than 50 years of research shows that the right design and the right sounds and images make for happier, healthier people. For hospitals, this means happier, healthier patients. So, healthcare spaces – in small towns, suburbs and cities – are getting a makeover.

“A nice song, good happy people and it’s not Memorex, it’s live in person. I felt so at peace in the Hershey clinic that my pain level got lower and I was calm when I went to see a doctor for shots,” said one patient.

Acoustic Guitar takes Center Stage at Hershey Medical Center

Isaac Moyer plays for Center Stage

The programs have grown beyond to include staff art shows and an outdoor, summer concert series for the College of Medicine staff. About 9,000 people are employed at the campus. Offering arts programming boosts mood and morale for those who work at the facility.  On our recent visit to the med center to talk about Center Stage, we found Betsy Blyler painting a wall in one of the waiting areas. Blyler is a 2011 Penn State University graduate in art education. All smiles, she talked about her choice for colors and design.

Betsy Blyler painting in a waiting area at Hershey Medical Center.

Betsy Blyler painting in a waiting area at Hershey Medical Center.

“It’s about choice,” de Boer said. “The idea is to enhance the atmosphere, but it needs to be a choice for the patient. Do they want to hear the music? Do they want to have a painting in their hospital room?  If so, which paints?”

On a cancer in-patient floor, we talked about “Pick- a- Pic,” wherein 34 patient rooms on three floors have custom frames that accommodate changing art. Patients may choose a painting from a growing collection of prints of paintings made by regional artists. It is funded by the nursing departments and the Association of Faculty and Friends.

Reviewing patient comments about the art they chose shows that Pick – a – Pic is popular with patients. Staff records patient feedback. Here are a few comments:

“She said it’s as if she is in the woods and can hear the rushing water.”

Another:” Patient said that she chose this picture because the water and mountains remind her of Hawaii, where she was born.  She mentioned that it is so nice to look at this compared to all of the warning signs around her. ‘This artist understands what it feels to look at white walls all day.’”

Glass Artist Linda Billet's checker board table

Glass Artist Linda Billet’s checker board table in a waiting area at Hershey Medical Center. Yes! You can play checkers.

Rotating art displays are another project within the program. For February 2014, the nuclear medicine waiting area in the radiology department, gowned waiting areas in radiology, HVI patient and family waiting areas and the sixth floor ICU family areas have paintings by regional artists. The art and the locations change every three months, offering fresh views for staff, patients and visitors and new exposure for the artists.

Claire de Boer  director, Center Stage

Claire de Boer, director, Center Stage

“If a program works, we grow it,” de Boer, a member of The Global Alliance for Arts & Health (formerly Society for the Arts in Healthcare), said. The Alliance advocates for the integration of the arts into healthcare facilities and assists in the professional development and management of arts programming.

She noted that Center Stage works so well at the Hershey campus because it has support from the administration and from the staff. Strong financial planning, including grant writing, is vital to success, de Boer added.

The World Concert Series is the newest program to take Center Stage.  On a quarterly basis, live musicians will perform music from another country. This takes place in the cafeteria and the chef prepares a matching menu to enhance the cultural flavor of the event.

Please contact Claire de Boer for more information, for a tour of Center Stage programs or to make a donation. Reach her via email at To visit the Center Stage website, click here. The URL is

(Christine Goldbeck earned her Master of Fine Arts-Interdisciplinary Arts degree from Goddard College in Plainfield, VT.  She is a painter, photographer, teacher and writer based in Middletown, PA.  Her art is in national and international private and public collections. In Central PA, her art can be seen at Arts on Union in Middletown, the Center of American Craft at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen in Lancaster and Brath and Hughes in Mechanicsburg.)