Classes like Anne Willieme’s are part of the burgeoning field of medical humanities, which aims to tackle the disciplinary divide between art and science.
It makes sense that artist Anne Willieme, who founded ArtMed inSight, a consultancy that brings art-based education to medical institutions, would see the connections between art and science. “Art and science have so much in common,” she told Hyperallergic in a phone interview. Both “are rooted in a sense of wonder about the world, giving form to an understanding of the world, and deal with interpretation as well. But of course, their methods can be seen as different.”
The fields of art and science were not always as “polarized” as they are treated today, Willieme points out. But through a recent increase in programs like hers, which include collaborations between artists, museums, and medical institutions, “this polarization is softening, and we can see bridges, which I think is so exciting.”
After graduating with an MFA in visual art from George Washington University, Willieme was increasingly drawn to the idea of applying art in medical settings, especially after a personal experience in a hospital made her recognize the value of integrating art into its sterile, often disorienting environment. “When patients are there in a very vulnerable situation, all of that can really uplift someone,” she explained. She began to work on installation concepts for medical settings and study art’s use in healing and learning. Willieme gave lectures and tours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before branching out into medical classrooms, eventually founding ArtMed inSight in 2007. She has since taught seminars and courses at institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, and New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center.