The art of healing: New hospital features more than 650 pieces, Durango Herald, June 16, 2006


The largest sculpture garden in Southwest Colorado is at the new Mercy Regional Medical Center. The healing garden features a waterfall designed by Genesis Landscaping and five works in bronze: “Twins” and “Beavers” by Gerald Balciar; “White Deer of Autumn” by Denny Haskew; “Touch the Earth” by Star Lianna York; and “Napoleon” by Patsy Davis.

The entrance to the hospital is set off by two more sculptures: “Sprite” by Mancos resident Veryl Goodnight and the piece-de-resistance of the collection, “Spirit Mother” by Michael Naranjo, a blind sculptor from Santa Clara Pueblo.

“It vibrates with this energy that anything is possible,” Shanan Campbell Wells, the art consultant for the hospital, said of Naranjo’s work during a tour of the facility. “Spirit Mother” is a curandera, a healer; she is gathering herbs with a stick and a pot, but her features and clothing are nondescript.

“She could be anyone, anywhere,” Wells said. The hallmark of a Naranjo sculpture is the simple almond eyes without detail and the black patina.

Three years ago, Wells, the owner of Sorrel Sky gallery, applied for and was selected to be the art consultant for the hospital. Wells said she distilled what the committee of 14 to 15 people made up from staff from all areas of the hospital wanted for the hospital.

“They wanted to portray and reflect an environment of healing, sensitivity to diversity, kindness and comfort. They also wanted to reflect our culture and community, yet be sophisticated and able to “compete” on a national level of being a first-rate art collection, but not something that looked like a hotel. They wanted it to be special, not extravagant, but appropriate for the setting.”

Wells’ selection process was first and foremost about the art.

“I selected the art I felt was great art, and if you were local, even better,” Wells said.

She approached the project by breaking it down like a puzzle. What was most appropriate for ICU? What about cardiology?
Karen Midkiff, chief development officer of the Mercy Foundation Board, said that “Shanan’s ability and her museum experience really made a difference.”

There are more than 650 pieces of art by approximately 150 artists in the collection, much of it prints, posters and giclees alongside originals.

“Having a well-selected collection is what stands out as being important.” Wells said.

The art is unique in each section of the hospital, appropriate for the area of use. Florals hang in the first-floor patient wing. A collection of Stanton Englehart landscapes fills the emergency room. Photography is used in the conference and education center. Images of pottery and architecture in muted tones and colors run throughout the hallways and waiting areas of ICU and TCU. Imaging and diagnostics feature wildlife art. The waiting area for orthopedics is all landscape art, featuring the tonal work of Peter Campbell.

Artists Pino, Jose Royo and Michael and Inessa Garmash hang in the family birth center, with classic, impressionistic images of women and children. The large walkway leading to the birth center is filled with oversized sepia-toned photographs reflecting the history of the West.

Another area on level 2 includes horses and barns. The work of Carrie Fell and Donna Howell Sickles adds a touch of fun in places. Hanging metal sculptures by Brent Lawrence are strewn throughout the hospital. Cardiology reception features a Navajo weaving collection, and near the main elevators is an interior sculpture, “This Fragile Life” by Star Lianna York.

The commissioned paintings in the lobby by Jan Thompson are simple, graphic and colorful representations of the symbols used in the donor feature, a monumental, museum-quality installation that recognizes the many donors who gave nearly $11 million to make the hospital possible. Donors paid for all of the art, and nearly $100,000 was spent on the healing garden alone.

The donor feature is a column with an abstracted mountain scene wrapped around the base supporting the names of donors. Extending from the base, built into the floor, are glass Mimbres symbols lit from below: the deer, the quail, the rabbit, the fish and the turtle. Each represents a type of medicine: gentleness, a sense of community, moving through fear, inner knowing and the power to heal female disease.

Brad Cochennet, COO of the hospital, said “I think we have a pretty amazing collection that reflects how art connects to the healing environment.”

“This is the grandest collection of art Durango has ever seen,” Midkiff added.

Local artists on display:
Sharon Abshagen, Peter Campbell, Don Cook, Patsy Davis, Stanton Englehart, Mar Evers, Paul Folwell, Kit Frost, Veryl Goodnight, Pat Howard, Chris Marona, Jane Mercer, Paul Pennington, Jan Thompson, Laurie Walters, and Susan Balas Whitfield.

lgoebel@centurytel.net Pagosa Springs writer Leanne Goebel is an arts journalist

Contents copyright ©, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.

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