After Steve Mair suffered a debilitating stroke in September 2010, he spent time at Sutter Rehabilitation Institute. There, his then 27-year-old son, Elliott Mair, pushed Steve's wheelchair around the long halls of the rehab center. As Elliott pushed his dad up one hallway and down another, he noticed that the art on the walls was generic and uninteresting. The artwork was also placed at a standing person's height and not at a wheelchair-level height where his father could easily see it.
For Elliott, who uses photography and artwork to express himself, the lack of inspiring or motivating photos didn't seem fitting for the patients who stayed in the rehabilitation institute—sometimes for weeks. Elliott felt the artwork should be part of the patient's recovery by encouraging language and thinking skills among the patients.
Elliott applied for a grant from the National Arts and Disability Center and the California Arts Council. The purpose of the NADC and CAC is to enhance opportunities for participation in the arts for people with disabilities and make grants available for professional development and/or technical assistance.
With the grant money, Elliott took photographs and had them mounted and framed. The 10 photos now hang outside the therapy gym in the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute at a variety of heights to fit all forms of patient mobility.
Elliott worked hand-in-hand with therapy and nursing staff at the rehabilitation center to photograph the best subject matter for the patients. Staff provided guidelines that included avoiding photographs that could cause patients confusion or emotional distress, no photos that remind patients of home, and also no photos of food or candy.
The photographs are a mix of nature, architecture and interesting textures for patients to view, enjoy and comment on. Elliott hopes to change out the photographs every six months or so and will be pursuing further funding.
"I hope the photographs convey my appreciation of the great care my dad received," says Elliott. "And I hope that the patients, families and staff enjoy the photos as well."