Studies have shown patients in medical centers can benefit greatly from art on the walls.

Photos and paintings focused on nature can lift spirits of patients and staff, lead to less pain medication for patients and can help patients get better and leave sooner.

When designer Sharon Watkins saw the blank walls at the newly renovated La Estancia Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ahwatukee Foothills, she knew she couldn’t let that stand. That’s why Watkins is working with the center’s administrators to fill the walls with art from local artists.

“Artwork for healing environments is very important,” Watkins said. “Artwork for long-term care is important because it’s part of a homelike environment, which is something you want to create. I talked with an administrator and he agreed art is very important and wanted to create an art program.”

Watkins is looking for local artists wanting to display their art at the center for a minimum of six months. After six months on display, guests or visitors to the center may purchase the piece. That would be worked out directly with the artist.

This is the first time Watkins has organized an art program like this, she said. It’s a creative solution to find art for the center without spending money they don’t have.

“The typical art program is you select all of the art or you have it custom done and it is installed and it is there until major changes are made in the environment,” she said. “This is a different approach. It’s creative. I’m always one for creative solutions when tight budgets are involved and in a lot of health care environments, they certainly are.”

So far Watkins has collected about 20 pieces of local artwork, but an additional 80 are needed to fill the walls.

Watkins is seeking nature-based art. The medium used can be anything from photography to watercolor and the piece can include people or buildings, but studies have shown patients respond best to pieces that center around nature. It creates a peaceful feeling, sparks memories and comforts people.

Nature is a specialty of local painter Tony Meli, whose work has been selected as part of the program.

“Probably the majority of people appreciate wildlife, nature, nice scenery,” he said. “You always hear about parks being jam-packed with people. Artwork is a way of taking that back with you.”

Meli said he decided to take part in the program with La Estancia because he loves to give back and loves to share his work.

Artists who wish to display their work for sale at the center can call Watkins at (602) 466-8441 or email for more information.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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