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Artwork turns Medical Center into gallery of healing

Published on Monday, November 10, 2014

Published on November 10, 2014

There are soaring spirits, and heroes more down-to-earth. Teddy bears, and a singer who just wanted to be one. Physicians, farmers and fishermen. People who shared their lives, and people who saved them.

All of these, and many more, are portrayed in the array of artwork on public display across campus at the University of Mississippi Medical Center – in oils, watercolors and paper. In stained glass and bronze.

They not only soothe the eye, but also, it seems, the body. The theory that art heals got a boost in 2011 with a University of London study: Blood flow to the “joy response” of the brain rose 10 percent for people viewing eye-pleasing paintings.

If true, joy drips from the walls of the Medical Center. As Celeste Eason put it: “There is something fresh that renews your spirit when you can reflect upon a framed sunflower on the wall.”

Eason is the parliamentarian with the UMMC Alliance, a volunteer organization that, among other things, supports art acquisitions. State agencies cannot buy art with appropriated funds, but the alliance, acting as an auxiliary, can – often with proceeds from Taste of the U.

“The hope is that the pieces provide an ambiance to a family that may be scared and anxious about a loved one,” Eason said.

Many of the paintings across campus are prints or reproductions. But many are originals, sometimes donated by the artist or by people who buy them at Candlelighters auctions.

Thanks in great part to the efforts of the Candlelighters, a cancer patient support organization, along with donations from Dr. Blair Batson and Dr. Owen “Bev” Evans, Batson Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Cancer Clinic alone are an art lover’s mecca, said Tena McKenzie, manager of Children’s Miracle Network.  Irene Graham, the first director of the Rowland Medical Library, pushed for much of the art on campus, Eason said.

The Rowland Medical Library has its own impressive collection, said Susan Clark, library director. The library includes works by stained-glass artist Andy Young, whose pieces also grace the University Hospital chapel. The School of Medicine, the Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants and other schools and offices are

mini-galleries in their own right.

In this vast collection, works by Mississippi artists are the rule. The Gitter Gallery’s folk-art display between Batson and Wiser is one exception. Still, one of the exhibits depicts a 3-year-old version of the most famous Mississippian of all: Elvis.

Attempts to provide a comprehensive look, or a dollar value, are doomed. Rough estimates say the works, all told, are worth many thousands. But for a patient or family looking for a vision to ease their burden, they’re worth much more.

Click to the photo gallery of art at UMMC.