High-touch meets high-tech
Mercy’s art collection creates total healing environment

David Bruzzese, spokesman for Mercy Regional Medical Center, takes a phone call while walking down a hall way lined with enlarged color prints at the new, 210,000-square-foot Mercy Medical Center./Photo by Jared Boyd

by Jules Masterjohn

To be human is to evolve … or so it seems. There are encouraging indications every day that we humans, as a collective group, are moving away from a material-based perception of the world to one that takes into account the workings of the soul. By pushing beyond our needs for comfort, status and power, we are able to embrace concerns for others that allow us to live peacefully in a world of paradox.

The age-old debate about whether humans are basically evil or good isn’t an either/or question in my mind. As witnessed by the ever-present acts of fear and love within the human continuum, we are capable of causing pain AND easing suffering – both are within our potential.

Most people I know have an inner desire to relieve the suffering they see around them and are committed to deepening their understanding of how they can manifest this relief in the world.

Many of us know how a painting or sculpture can transport our minds and hearts to places ripe with insight. Often times, this “aesthetic nudge” is exactly what is needed to shift our understanding – to help us perceive differently, and thus, live our moments more joyfully. Taken a step further, there is a growing awareness that the presence of art in our environments not only helps to keep our spirits high but also can promote healing for the sick, injured and traumatized.

The new Mercy Regional Medical Center has made a commitment to this understanding. Within its 210,000-square-foot facility, there are more than 650 pieces of visual art of various media-reproductions by artists of national and international reputation as well as original works by local and regional artists gracing the walls and inhabiting the grounds.

Art is everywhere inside and out, lending a high-touch aspect to the high-tech facility. A stone labyrinth, patterned after the one lain in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France, is situated on the west side of the building, available to those wanting to walk along the meditation path.

From garden-level patient rooms, the sound of falling water can be heard outside as it cascades down tiers of rocks. The water feature is part of the “Healing Garden,” which displays five bronze sculptures of animals and people. Benches are located in the sculpture garden for patients, visitors, and hospital staff to enjoy.

All 82 patient rooms, the waiting areas and conference rooms, as well as each of the specialized departments such as surgery, intensive care, orthopedics and family birthing, plus the cafeteria and all corridors are adorned with framed art. Even the stairwells are softened by reproductions of the abstract transcendental works of famed American artist Mark Rothko.

Each patient Room in the new Mercy Medical Center has at least one piece of artwork on its walls, in keeping with the hospital’s goal of creating a total healing environment. /Photo by Jared Boyd

Registered nurse and co-coordinator of the Integrative Care Center, Melinda Mical-Claussen, finds the artwork functional and refreshing.

“As I walk through the hospital, the different artwork orients me to where I am in the building. The new hospital is so big and new to me that when I see the horse paintings or my favorite painting of the sunflower and the hollyhocks, I get my bearings. The art is a wonderful, visual feast.”

Shanan Campbell Wells, owner of Sorrell Sky Gallery and the art consultant responsible for selecting the art that hangs on the walls, believes that the administration’s decision to make the artwork an important part of the facility shows a commitment to healing on all levels. “I worked with a very forward-thinking committee to select a collection of art that would serve a broad audience,” Wells said.

The addition of the artwork to the new facility is a reiteration of the healing philosophy already present within the hospital administration and staff. For the past four years, Mercy’s doctors, nurses and technicians have been witnessing the benefits of the alternative=healing practices that Mical-Claussen and her Integrated Care colleagues administer to patients. The Touch-Love-Compassion (TLC) program offers massage, aromatherapy, guided imagery instruction and other relaxation techniques as part of a healing menu for patient pain management.

Working daily with people in pain, Mical-Claussen offers, “There is a lot of sadness and suffering here. The art gives family members another focus, something to bring a spot of beauty into their day and opens up a little place inside them that is beyond their suffering.”

She, also, appreciates the art for the humanizing aspect it represents. “The art on the walls creates a balance between the technology that is present … with its equipment and tubes and the wonders of that … and the other part of healing that asks the patient, ‘What else do you need to feel better?’ The work that I do with the patients takes into consideration that we are not just a body but we are souls as well. The art reminds us of this.”

Not only are the patients and visitors positively affected by their art-filled surroundings, but the 600-plus caregivers, who work daily at the medical center, benefit from the uplifting work atmosphere.

Karen Midkiff, chief development officer of the Mercy Foundation Board, told of one emergency department nurse who broke into tears during an orientation tour, when she saw that she would be working surrounded by the work of her favorite artist, Stanton Englehart.

For those who work in an emotionally challenging environment where pain and fear may be present, the art offers a breathing space that is well needed. Nurse Mical-Claussen continues, “The caregivers are people who spend a lot of hours here, and we are grateful to be working in such an aesthetic environment. Caregivers, too, need the kind of respite that the artwork provides.”

Hospital Spokesman David Bruzzese continues to hear from staff and visitors about how different the new facility is from the old Mercy building. “With the addition of the art collection to the new hospital, we have certainly achieved our goal of creating a total healing environment.” •



In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale