University of Kentucky ‘Arts In Healthcare’ Hits The Jackpot With Arthouse Kentucky

When Dr. Michael Karpf joined the University of Kentucky as Vice President for Health Affairs, he brought with him from UCLA the goal of elevating UK’s hospital to the national level and the idea of the integration of art into healthcare. Although Dr. Karpf has since retired, Jason Akhtarekhavari—himself an artist—currently serves as Program Manager for UK’s Arts in HealthCare. In that role, he is in charge of implementing and growing Karpf’s concept across UK’s vast medical system. As the art buyer for the program, Akhtarekhavari has found an excellent resource in ArtHouse Kentucky gallery and the artists of Art Inc. Kentucky, Community Ventures’ art incubator located at The MET in Lexington’s East End neighborhood.

What role does art play in healthcare settings like hospitals and doctors’ offices? According to Akhtarekhavari, simply having art in a health facility can have actual physical and emotional benefits for the patient as well as the staff. In fact, research has shown that art can shorten the length of a hospital stay, reduce the need for pain medication and lessen anxiety. Choosing the right art is key.

“The first time I walked into ArtHouse, I realized it has a very different feel than any other gallery in town,” remembers Akhtarekhavari. “It was eclectic, and it felt like a community. The art is varied, and it feels like a lot of different people were given the opportunity to be represented. It feels very accessible. When I found ArtHouse, I was like ‘Jackpot!’”

When asked what about ArtHouse Kentucky keeps him coming back, Akhtarekhavari replied, “One of the big things is diversity—in the artists themselves, but also in the subject matter. That is something I don’t see a lot in other galleries in town. At ArtHouse Kentucky, I see people of color represented on canvas as well as artists of color and their work in a much greater magnitude than what is normally available. I find art there that is going to help me diversify my art collection, and help me meet new artists in black and brown communities to be able to represent them in what we do at UK HealthCare.

“Art Inc. feels like a parallel piece of what we try to do with our program. And from my personal standpoint, arts and creativity are essential to health and human happiness. Period.”

Are you an artist looking to turn your passion into profit? For information on Art Inc. Kentucky, the Artists’ Studios or ArtHouse Kentucky, contact Mark Johnson at (859) 231-0054 ext. 1023 or