Rockwell enjoys a solid history and reputation of supplying clients and art consultants with top-grade Healing Art. With this comes the responsibility of also providing a secure environment for infection mitigation. Rockwell’s research and interaction with healthcare facilities professionals now offers the following advice. 

Art in Healthcare Requires Infection Mitigation Too

Working with hospital facilities and infection-housecleaning experts, Rockwell Art and Framing delivers art in healthcare environments which meet the demands for infection control.

Art Infection Mitigation (AIM). We “Take AIM”, seriously.

From a January 2017 article in Interiors+Sources The Art of Healing Spaces That Perform by Robert Nieminen,[1] according to the World Health Organization (WHO), nosocomial infections, or infections acquired in healthcare settings, are the most frequent adverse event in healthcare delivery worldwide, affecting hundreds of millions of patients each year, leading to significant mortality and financial losses for health systems.[2] In fact, hospital-acquired infections are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and typically affect patients whose immune systems are compromised.[3] Although infection caused by airborne transmission poses a major safety problem, research indicates that most infections are acquired in the hospital via the contact pathway, and microbiologically contaminated surfaces can be reservoirs of pathogens that are transferred from healthcare staff to patients.[4]

 In the healthcare environment, art is often the most visible component of a space. Today, nearly 50 percent of all hospitals in the U.S. have arts programs.[5] In spite of the costs associated with art programs, the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (SAH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) concluded from a joint analysis that hospitals use the arts “to create a more uplifting environment” in addition to “create a welcoming atmosphere and build community relations.” And as this CEU has demonstrated, the impact that art has on patients can be verified by credible research, making the process of selection an important one.

Surfaces that can withstand repeated cleaning with harsh chemicals without sacrificing performance or aesthetics are needed in healthcare environments.

Fortunately for designers and specifiers, there are a number of decorative laminates and architectural substrates that meet healthcare’s high demands while also conforming to evidence-based design principles—particularly as it relates to providing patients with positive distractions like artwork (more on this in the next section).

Today’s surfacing solutions can provide impact resistance, abrasion and scratch resistance, chemical resistance, and superior corrosion resistance as well. Depending upon the substrates used—which include acrylic, aluminum, clear PVC, fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP), polycarbonate, PVC board, and wood—today’s surfacing products are highly stable, dimensionally consistent, and can be engineered for special performance properties including:


  • Moisture resistance.Many of these surfacing products are impervious to moisture, washable, and easy-to-clean, making them a great choice in high-traffic environments and healthcare facilities where cleanability is a concern.
  • Scratch resistance.High-traffic environments with painted walls often fall victim to scuffing and scratches—a fact that not only diminishes the aesthetics of a space but also adds to maintenance costs. Printed laminates can be a very attractive option in busy spaces such as hospital corridors, ambulatory care, assisted living facilities, and schools. These panels and tiles are extremely durable and resist a tremendous amount of wear and tear.
  • Fire resistance.Depending upon the substrate chosen, decorative surfacing products can meet the most stringent ASTM fire ratings without sacrificing aesthetics. Both Class A and Class C products are available from most manufacturers to meet code requirements for fire safety in healthcare environments.

 Art + Substrates: A New Canvas for Healthcare

Visual art can have a measurable impact on patients in healthcare settings. But because of the stringent performance and cleanability demands of healthcare environments, artwork must be placed carefully so that it doesn’t interfere with facility operations. Thanks to advances in printing technology, new graphics programs from some leading surfacing manufacturers are able to combine graphics and imagery with an array of durable and cleanable substrates from FRP to metal.

Art Problems include

  • Rendering art in non-covered original media such as paint, pastel, even giclee (a new form of copying art) where wetting the surface in wipe down or with harsh chemicals would destroy the art itself
  • Frame stock selection which has crevasses which capture lint and harbor microbe hiding places.
  • “Security hardware” which effectively locks the art to the wall disallows disinfection on the wall behind the art or the art back itself – often for years.
  • Paper backing of art absorbs liquid cleaning material
  • Plexiglass which scratches with heavy and ongoing cleaning
  • Staff spraying liquid directly on glass which drips inside the frame and wicked up into the mat

Rockwell Solutions include

  • Rendering original art behind safe plexi-glass capable to standing up to ongoing cleaning.
  • Rendering photographs in modern materials such as aluminum panel or acrylic (framed or unframed).
  • Mounting modern panels with stand-offs which allow for housecleaning staff to unscrew and remove the art to disinfect the back and the wall behind.
  • Frame stock selections which match/meet design requirements but with impermeable smooth-surface for antiseptic wipedown
  • Closing the back of the art with a velum or laminate provides a smooth non-absorbent surface for wipe down.
  • Spraying the cleaning cloth with disinfectant, not spraying the art piece directly.
  • Providing housecleaning with the tools necessary to remove and replace art hung with security hardware


[2] “Health care-associated infections FACT SHEET.” (n.d.). World Health Organization.

[3] Joseph, A., Ph.D. (2006). “Impact of the Environment on Infections in Healthcare Facilities.” The Center for Health Design.

[4] Joseph, A., Ph.D. (2006). “Impact of the Environment on Infections in Healthcare Facilities.” The Center for Health Design.

[5] Hathorn, K., Nanda, U., Ph.D. (2008). “Guide to Evidence-Based Art.” The Center for Health Design’s Environmental Standards Council.