Commissioned by Montefiore Medical Center and in partnership with the Fashion Institute of Technology, we draw on location to translate New York City street scenes into virtual reality using Google Tilt Brush technology. It’s a classical approach to groundbreaking technology that creates an immersive experience.

With its famous cultural background (that gave rise to Hip-Hop) and today’s vibrant streets, The Bronx was a natural pick for virtual reality art.

With its renowned floral shows and conservation efforts, in combination with its iconic art exhibits – such as Frida Kahlo and Dale Chihuly – the New York Botanical Garden was an essential pick for Tom Christopher‘s second virtual reality art piece.

For more than a decade, researchers have studied the effectiveness of using virtual reality in healthcare. Studies indicate that VR improves patient well-being and decreases fear and anxiety during hospital visits. VR programs offers physicians and patients more options than medication alone. However, no studies have explored curated fine art VR experiences to control pain management with quantifiable results.

Going beyond traditional gaming, The Virtual Reality Fine Art Program (VRFA) at Montefiore seeks to diminish anxiety, pain and opioid addiction through stimulus-rich and curated artistic environments. These experiences will serve as ‘immersive analgesics’ allowing physicians to treat their patients more effectively by improving patient’s health and hospital experiences and reducing reliance on pain medication, including opioids.

Existing VR programs employed in healthcare environments commonly use off the shelf experiences that involve gaming or meditative environments. Studies show the negative impacts from popular VR, including delayed development in children and depression.

Montefiore’s VRFA approach is unique. Commissioned artists work directly with patients and physicians to better understand the patient’s needs. State-of-the-art equipment that assess/analyze a patient’s neuro-responses, heartrate, pressure, and skin conductance are employed to provide metrics to a degree never seen before. Preliminary testing has shown promising data to confirm VRFA’s positive effects on patients. With further testing, VRFA seeks to become the standard in providing alternatives to medication as a viable management tool to decrease patient anxiety, fear and pain. In time, these experiences seek to impact larger issues in healthcare such as the heroin epidemic sweeping the country. Artist Tom Christopher has been awarded the first fine art VR commission. Partnering with the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Department of Fine Art, Media Laboratory and FIT Interns, Christopher will create three Bronx-specific vr experiences. The group will travel throughout The Bronx and the New York Botanical Garden to sketch, record, photograph, and film to capture the nuances of everyday life that are unique to this borough. Christopher will then work in VR using Google Tilt Brush to bring his artwork to life. Christopher’s experiences will be the first editions in the development of an on-going vr library of original artwork that can be accessed by patients and their physicians as part of the Montefiore Fine Art Program and Collection.

Jodi Moise, Curator The Montefiore Fine Art Program and Collection 
Olivia Davis, Project Manager and Assistant Curator, The Montefiore Fine Art Program 
David Beach, Associate Professor of Architecture, Drury University 
Alaa AlRadwan, Architect and Co-Founder, ToGo Creations 
Jessica Snyder, Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center and Co-Founder, ToGo Creations 
Patrick Denny, Media Specialist 
Thomas Mcmanus, Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology 
Joel Werring, Chair, Fine Arts Department, Fashion Institute of Technology 
James Pearce, Technology Head, Fashion Institute of Technology 
Joseph Irizarry, Stephanie Held, Pilot Internship Program, Fashion Institute of Technology 
Tom Christopher, Painter