A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!

Feb 14, 2024

Kira Stewart Has Her Art in the Right Place

She knows why hospitals have to have at least two stories

By Ed Goldman

You can learn a lot from Kira Stewart.  Her business, Art Consulting Services (or just ACS) helps hospitals, clinics, companies, restaurants, hotels, engineering firms and senior-living facilities, among others, select and purchase art for their walls and halls. Here’s one of the surprising facts she shares at our recent interview, which takes place in her sunlit condo/studio a few blocks from mine: “People figure the more stories a healthcare facility has, the better the quality of the healthcare.” 

She also recalls how she once organized a focus group of kids to tell her the kind of artwork they’d like to see—as opposed to what the social workers, doctors and nurses believed they’d want to see—on the walls of their pediatric clinics. “They didn’t mind jungle animals as long as they didn’t seem to be staring at them,” she says. “When they were alone at night and their mommies and daddies weren’t there to watch over them, they were scared of the animals, even the little monkeys.”

Edgy Cartoon

Kira and her assistant, Max (photo by Ed Goldman)

Stewart, who turned 60 last summer, conducts “discovery” meetings with her taller clients, as well. “I ask them what they want the art in their building to convey. It’s all purpose-driven.”

She’s found that even with the best of intentions, healthcare professionals don’t always know what’s best for a patient’s surroundings. For example, at a facility for frail, low-income seniors, the administration’s idea was to hang landscapes and placid paintings in the corridors—whereas, the seniors, many of whom “had been relevant and vital and political in their youth,” Stewart says—wanted pictures that reflected the times in which they’d been living their best lives: the 1960s and ’70s.

“So down came the landscapes and up went the photos of the Beatles, the Selma March with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., even a Jimi Hendrix poster,” she says, smiling. 

“A project I’m deeply proud of,” she says, “is a behavioral health clinic in Modesto, where we learned they served a high percentage of LGBTQ teens. Since mental health services still have a stigma associated with them at times, this piece did so much more than add beauty: These are hand-painted and gold lacquered eggshells: inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi—where they mend broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer and honor its history and imperfections. It’s believed that the object is, in factnot broken, but stronger and more beautiful than ever in its new form. 

“Beach Dreams” by Kira Stewart

What a metaphor for the journey of seeking help, health and restoration!” And of course, she adds, “we asked for the rainbow gradient.” 

ACS (online at artconsultingservices.net) currently has up to 90 projects going in three states (California, Colorado and Florida). The company enjoys a 96 percent combined repeat-and-referral rate—and Stewart gives all of the credit for that enviable stat to her eight employees, all of whom work from home. “One’s in North Carolina,” she says.

Modesto Behavioral Health Clinic

Married for decades to John Chermesino, a musician and marketing pro, Stewart hopes to revive her own once-prolific painting career along the way. Formally trained but immensely imaginative, her work emphasizes the brightness and beauty of daily life. Through her consulting, she does the same for countless patients—no matter their age, culture, orientation or malady. 

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).