Sensing Nature – Yale New Haven Smilow Cancer Hospital


Client: Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale New Haven

Location: New Haven, CT, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $35,000

Project Team


Linda Cummings

Linda Cummings Studio

oordinator of Integrated Services

Dana Brewer

Smilow Cancer Hospital


SENSING NATURE is a nature-based art experience to enhance well-being at Yale New Haven, Smilow Cancer Hospital. This audio-visual installation project is comprised of photographs and an accompanying 12 minute A-V presentation narrated by the artist that is accessible through the hospital channel in patient rooms. 24/7 access to the exhibition and video provides and on-demand relief and a focal point for conversation, connection to the outside or distraction, day or night. The project was custom-designed for Smilow/YNHH, based upon the artist’s response to the natural beauty of Connecticut waterways and her visual exploration, by kayak, of the Farm River – a tidal river in Branford, CT. Still and moving images of the sights and sounds of nature are interwoven to provide a continuous, on-demand experience of nature in the privacy of patient rooms. The photographs can also be viewed in the corridors and the hospital’s Healing Arts Gallery. The aim of SENSING NATURE is to stimulate the viewer’s imagination through the senses, to inspire the potential for healing through connection to nature and to facilitate a biophilic relaxation response.


SENSING NATURE is intended to promote well-being and accelerate healing by reducing the stress of patients, staff and caregivers and improving the patient’s satisfaction with the healthcare environment. The audio visual component aimed to make the experience accessible to non-ambulatory patients who otherwise would not have the opportunity to engage with the art. By focusing attention on beauty and cycles of nature the installation creates a safe space of reflection, fosters a sense of calm, connection, and belonging to the natural world.

Research on biophilia indicates humans have an affinity, or love, of nature. SENSING NATURE links this hypothesis directly to our capacity to imagine, feel, learn and act. Nature-based art relaxes and refocuses the mind when thoughts of illness distract and overwhelm. SENSING NATURE provides a meditative and creative experience that can energize and replenish the imagination with a renewed sense of possibility and pleasure. Connecting to soothing images and rhythmic sounds of nature awakens the senses and can stimulate pleasant memories. Identification with nature’s beauty, strength and resilience fosters hope and can inspire confidence in one’s own ability to heal.


My collaboration with Dana Brewer and the Integrative Care team at the Smilow Hospital was instrumental in my understanding patient needs and in gaining support within the hospital community for this project. Thomas P. Duffy. MD provided inspiration and guidance with regard to the important relationship between the arts and medicine and Roz Cama of Cama Design facilitated the photographic installation in the Healing Arts Gallery. Invaluable technical assistance was provided by Nelson Delgado and the IT department to stream the video throughout the hospital. Several hospital staff, patients and caregivers participated in conversations and shared insights that helped shape the video. Fundraising by the Yale New Haven Hospital Womens Auxilllary allowed for the acquisition of the project.