UC San Diego News Center


“Roses and Two Lemons” by Manny Farber (1996) is an oil on board featured on floor 1 of Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health.

Art of Healing at Jacobs Medical Center

Jacobs Medical Center has a reputation for offering patients lifesaving treatments that cannot be found in other hospitals. From stem cell and immunotherapies to transplantation and complex surgeries, patients arrive at the hospital seeking cures, or at least longer leases on life. One of the unexpected sources of rejuvenation, for many, is the Jacobs Healing Arts Collection.

“I like the art because it makes me feel better, even though I’m not the patient,” said Jennifer, whose companion is receiving cancer care. “Being in a hospital is sometimes a waiting game. Waiting for a surgery to end. Waiting for test results. Waiting to see family. Here, you can look up and see something beautiful. Just for a second, I forget to worry. Look at the butterflies. They give you hope.”


Selections from “The Souls III” by Damian Hirst (2015) is a set of four foil block prints

On the second floor of Jacobs Medical Center, on a stark white wall, is a grouping of nine iridescent butterflies. Each butterfly is almost 2 feet by 2 feet in size. The beautiful foil block prints were created by Damian Hirst, an artist who said there are four important things in life: religion, love, art and science.

“We hope that Jacobs Medical Center will provide both high tech and high touch care,” said Tom Savides, MD, gastroenterologist and chief experience officer at UC San Diego Health. “Arts help with healing to complement our advanced treatments. This amazing art collection improves the experience of not only patients, but also their families, guests and our team members. It also extends throughout all hospital spaces and into the spaces outside the hospital, providing a unifying theme of visual healing. Art can be medicine too.”

“Research shows art has the ability to heal and de-stress,” said Joan Jacobs, arts advocate and philanthropist whose family donated more than $100 million for UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center. “What we hope to create with the artwork is an uplifting environment that fosters warmth, comfort and inspiration. The goal is to increase feelings of well-being while promoting healing.”

A 2011 University College London study, for example, found that blood flow increased 10 percent in the “joy response” circuit of the brain when persons saw a beautiful painting. A 2009 report by the Arts & Health Alliance describes a growing body of evidence indicating art, carefully curated, benefits not only patients, but caregivers, visiting family, friends and healthcare providers.


“Black Hole (Dark Energy, Pearl White)” by Ryan McGinness (2014) is a silkscreen on birch panel

The therapeutic arts collection was conceived by Joan Jacobs at the same time blueprints for the $943 million hospital were being drawn up. Her appreciation of the intersection of art and healing is incorporated into every space within the 245-bed hospital. It is represented by more than 150 individual pieces.

Many of the artists in the collection have a connection to other institutions in San Diego. Artists such as Manny Farber and Kim MacConnel are known locally for their time as faculty at UC San Diego. A public sculpture by Kiki Smith is part of The Stuart Collection, part of UC San Diego’s long-standing commitment to art in public spaces.

The collection offers moments of discovery throughout the public areas of Jacobs Medical Center, including waiting rooms and corridors. Works in the collection include prints by notable artists such as Beatriz Milhazes and Julian Schnabel as well as works by Donald Sultan and Ryan McGinness. There are paintings by California artists Yunhee Min, Whitney Bedford and Eva Struble and work by local photographers such as Philipp Scholz Rittermann and Erik Jepsen.

“This is a vibrant, beautiful collection that will have a positive impact upon everyone who sees it,” said Patty Maysent, CEO, UC San Diego Health. “We are deeply grateful to the Jacobs Family, The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Iris Strauss and committee members who have made this art collection possible for our employees, patients and visitors.”