Art part of prescription for new UK hospitalFiled under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Music, Opera, UK, Visual arts; Tagged as: Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Michael Karpf, John Reyntiens, John Tuska, LaVon Van Williams, Myra Leigh Tobin Chapel, Springtime in Kentucky, Stephen Rolfe Powell, Warren Seelig
John Reyntiens developed his glass work for the chapel in the University of Kentucky’s new hospital with a keen sense of where it would be displayed.
“I didn’t want it to be mechanical,” Reyntiens said on the morning of May 22, showing samples of his work for the Myra Leigh Tobin Chapel at the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center. “People who are here will spend a lot of time around machines and medical equipment.
“It is important for people to have places to take time out and meditate and be quiet.”
Reyntiens’ Springtime in Kentucky is one of many pieces of art being commissioned and bought for the new hospital, which is under construction and is expected to start opening in phases in 2010.
“The art is my favorite part of this project,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK. “It humanizes the building.”
In filling the building with artwork, Karpf said, the hospital is taking cues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the Cleveland Clinic, which have made art a big part of their designs.
By incorporating art, both visual and performing, Karpf said, the hospital becomes more inviting and comforting for patients. The art is selected to reflect Kentucky. One piece, a 90-foot multimedia wall at the entrance, will be a constantly changing display of images from across the commonwealth.
The idea is to move away from a traditional, sterile hospital environment to something warmer and more conducive to healing. Karpf also talks about establishing music therapy and art therapy programs at the hospital.
“It is incredible what art and music do for people,” Karpf said, showing a virtual tour of the hospital.
In addition to visual art, the hospital will have a 300-seat, state-of-the-art education and performance theater, financed by the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation. All of the art initiatives in the hospital are privately financed, Karpf said.
If patients can’t make it to the theater for the performances, they can watch them through high-definition TV transmission in their rooms. Many performances will be open to the public.
“We’d like to get people in here when they aren’t sick,” Karpf said. “That way, if they do have to be treated, it will seem more familiar.”
The art being collected and commissioned for the hospital comes from Kentucky, with works by the late UK art professor John Tuska, Centre College professor and glass artist Stephen Rolfe Powell and folk artists including LaVon Van Williams. Some of it also comes from across the country and overseas, by artists including Reyntiens, a British glass and architectural artist who won an international call for designs for the chapel.
The hospital seeks to maintain a Kentucky theme. Portland, Maine, artist Warren Seelig’s piece called Gingko, a lobby centerpiece, drew inspiration from Henry Clay’s admiration for the gingko tree.
Throughout the hospital, Karpf said, great care will be taken to place art appropriately. More whimsical pieces, for instance, will be in children’s areas, whereas surgery and intensive care unit waiting areas will have more contemplative works.
As the opening of the hospital draws closer, people will have chances to see its art.
Kentucky Folk: Art From the UK HealthCare Collection will be on display at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky from July 11 to Sept. 20.
And there are smaller events, such as Reyntiens’ recent visit to show and discuss his work for the hospital.
Reyntiens, a son of famed British glass artist Patrick Reyntiens, said the commission from UK was a major milestone in establishing his own career.
For the project, he was given a couple of paragraphs describing spring in Kentucky by the chapel’s namesake, Myra Leigh Tobin, a UK alum who was trailblazing insurance executive and is an advisory member of the UK HealthCare Committee.
“The beauty of nature can be seen in the leaves popping on the branches of the trees,” Tobin wrote. “The flowers are bursting forth with color. The yellow forsythia, the redbud bushes and the white blooms of the dogwood are a beautiful panorama when driving along the highway.”
Reyntiens said the words gave him a good jumping-off point for his piece.
“There were lots of images,” he said. “Also, I’m from Somerset, England. It’s not as big as Kentucky. But we have wild garlic plants and apple trees, and the white blossoms come out in the springtime.”
Within the impressionistic image of the season are some literal shapes, branches and leaves that Reyntiens brought in while the glass was being molded.
He was in a German studio working on the glass, and when he went out and got branches, “they looked at me like I was completely bonkers. But then, when I came back with a sample of the shape of the branch in the glass, they said, ‘This is beautiful.’”
The work’s beauty should be visible from a distance.
Jackie Hamilton, who works in development communications for UK HealthCare, said the altar piece, the focal point of the work, will be visible from South Limestone.
“It will be lit at night, so drivers will see it,” she said.
Reyntiens said his father offered opinions on the piece, when asked. And at the end, he told his son, “This design is you. It’s nobody else’s, and it’s the best thing I’ve seen you do.”
And it is going into a place where Reyntiens and many others hope it will have a lasting impact.
“Art plays a very serious role in making you feel all right and healing,” he said. “It’s an honor to be part of that.”
One Response to “Art part of prescription for new UK hospital”
Janie Lee, M.Ed. May 31st, 2009 at 4:47 pm
Art isn’t a prescription, it is fun, it is sometimes sold, it is freelance work, it is sometimes something that can be found fun to do, and some people enjoy it, but I really suppose that as a medical thing it really isn’t and that is what will be the death of our first amendment rights so that is wrong and when used in that case if you are going to call it a prescription then you might say some are allergic to it and it may even cause the death of others. Thanks.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich