How do we remember? Let us count the ways
Jamie Sherman Blinder
By Lauren McLeod
When discussions about the new hospitals first began, two of Ann Arbor’s most powerful cultural forces met to determine how they could create a world-class art collection.
Jan Brandon, who currently co-chairs the Grand Opening Committee for the new hospitals, and James Steward, former director of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art, met with Pat Warner, the hospitals’ executive director, to discuss the prospect of collaborating to assemble a one-of- a-kind art collection.
Their discussions resulted in a partnership between the hospitals and the U-M Museum of Art – the first relationship of its kind for a healthcare institution.
“Across the University, there is strong emphasis on diverse programs working together to accomplish great things,” Brandon says. “We saw this as a fantastic opportunity to promote collaboration between departments as a method of achieving a significant goal.”
What resulted is a collection funded entirely through the support of private donors. It features 241 individual pieces by celebrated artists, including U-M alum Michele Oka Doner, known for her public art installations, including the mile-long embedded terrazzo A Walk on the Beach at the Miami International Airport. It also features the work of Paul Villinski, a New York-based artist whose works appear in more than 90 exhibitions around the United States.
Thirty-one of the 50 artists represented in the collection were educated, born in and or have lived in Michigan. Many artists included are faculty members at U-M, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University and Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Included in the collection is work by three recipients of the 2011 Kresge Artist Fellowship from the Detroit-based Kresge Foundation.
Melanie Manos, lecturer at the U-M School of Art and Design, led the selection process.
Over the course of three years, Manos and the committee selected the pieces for the collection. Roughly half of the artists represented in the collection, which will be installed beginning in September, are women. “We felt that it was important to be conscious of having a strong representation of women artists, and we wanted to be supportive of regional artists as much as possible,” Manos says. “We also were aware of giving business to local galleries and art dealers.”
The collection was largely inspired by the natural landscape of Nichols Arboretum, the 123 acre University-owned natural park that the building overlooks.
“Nature plays an important role inside and outside of the hospital because of its healing aspects. It was important that the artwork also reflect this theme,” says Brandon.
Back-lit photographs featuring the landscape of popular Michigan destinations, including the Arboretum, will be displayed throughout the building. The photographs, taken by Marion Brenner and Monte Nagler, a student of Ansel Adams, showcase the seasonal evolution of the Great Lakes scenery.
“Art has always been a large part of the culture at Mott,” Brandon says. “Not only with the artwork you see inside of the building, but art therapy plays a role in healing and is made available through Child and Family Life programs. We have intuitively known the benefits of art for years.”
The new building features gallery space near the main lobby, with the remainder of the collection showcased throughout the 12-story inpatient tower and 8-story outpatient clinical tower.
The $1.8 million dollar collection will be funded entirely through private donations. Donors may purchase individual works of art or give to the general art fund, which goes towards the purchase and maintenance of the art.
Dr. Ami Rosenthal and his wife, Prudence, counted themselves as art donors. Their donation supported one of two installations by Michele Oka Doner.
“Ami has spent 35 years of his professional life as a U-M pediatric cardiologist, helping to create the best children’s hospital possible,” says Mrs. Rosenthal. “We both take great pride in being part of the U-M family and are thrilled with the beautiful piece of art Michele has created. We’re delighted to be a part of the new facility.”
Fundraising events, including house parties, are being held throughout the United States in an effort to garner continued financial support for the collection. To honor the artists and donors, a gala is scheduled for November.
The new hospital’s art collection is the latest effort in the U-M Health System’s overall commitment to bringing visual and performing arts, and art-making opportunities for patients and staff, into the health care and research environment. Art can be found throughout the clinical buildings on the main and east medical campuses, in public spaces at the Medical School, and soon will come to the research space at the North Campus Research Complex.
Jamie Sherman Blinder
Jamie Sherman Blinder