Creative works in Sanderson tower offer inspiration, comfort
Published on Monday, June 21, 2021
By: Annie Oeth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Under the Rainbow, the semi-annual magazine for Children's of Mississippi.
Menageries and messages, collages and landscapes do more than decorate the walls of the patient rooms, waiting areas and clinics of the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi.
They aid in the healing of patients at the state’s only children’s hospital and comfort their families, University of Mississippi Medical Center experts say.
Art wasn’t an afterthought when the Sanderson Tower was finished, said Laura Taylor, a health care architect in the Medical Center’s Office of Planning. Paintings, photography, sculpture and other works were part of the tower’s planning from the very beginning.
“Instead of building a hospital tower and then adding artwork, we knew we wanted art and beauty to be an integral part of the Sanderson Tower’s design,” she said.
The works of art in the Sanderson Tower were chosen by a committee representing key stakeholders in the project, including experts in art, design and medicine.
The committee sought and went over proposals from Mississippi artists for areas including the pediatric and neonatal intensive care floors, clinic waiting rooms, the chapel and the lobby.
“Some of the works are statement pieces,” Taylor said, noting the Charlie Buckley painting of Mississippi landmarks in the lobby and the pair of William Goodman paintings that feature child-like images and inspirational words on the Sanderson Tower’s first floor, near the surgical waiting area.
Others are smaller works that turn hallways into galleries or provide beauty and hope inside patient rooms.
Mississippi by design
The works were designed with Mississippi and the color palette of the Sanderson Tower in mind. The coastal theme of the tower’s first floor, for example, is complemented by the beach scenes painted by Rebecca Korpita of Gulfport.
“Being from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I am inspired by the coastal lifestyle and people and children enjoying our beautiful beaches, and also the diverse neighborhoods and communities along the coast where kids can be kids and where neighbors interact and appreciate each other,” she said.
With titles including “Joyful Day at the Beach” and “Sandcastles and Sunsets,” Korpita’s works are in a surgery waiting room, where calm and thoughts of happy times at the beach are welcome.
“I feel so honored and grateful to be included in this group of artists, this beautiful cheerful space, and to especially be representing the coastal area,” she said. “One of my joys as an artist is to bring a smile or a chuckle to the viewer with my art. To be able to brighten up the stressful day of children and their families is a huge win for me.”
Inside the neonatal intensive care floors, the hallways show the photographs of Dr. Mark Reed, chief of pediatric otolaryngology, taken in Children’s of Mississippi’s NICU, and works by Buckley, whose daughter started life in a NICU.
“I was so thrilled to create these works,” Buckley said. “My daughter is 9 now, but she was born two months early. We live in Tupelo, and the NICU there took great care of her. She’s a healthy and happy child because of that. But my wife and I will never forget the stress and trauma of being in the NICU for weeks with our new baby. I used that experience to develop the images for the private NICU rooms in the Sanderson Tower.”
Buckley’s paintings are full of beauty and whimsy. “I wanted the paintings to be complex enough to get lost in while also using visual metaphors like butterflies, birds and homes to convey a sense of peace and calm,” he said.
Reed’s photographs, showing parents, nurses and the tiny babies they care for in the NICU, were donated.
“It was inspiring to take these photos,” Reed said. “When I talked to the NICU nurses and asked them why they do what they do, they never once mentioned themselves. What motivates them is seeing babies who are growing up healthy after their NICU discharge and seeing moms and dads getting to care for their babies.”
Thanks to the private NICU rooms in the Sanderson Tower, parents can now stay with their baby and be a part of their baby’s care team.
Childhood and nature
The natural beauty of Mississippi is a theme among the paintings. Artist Daniel Johnson of Jackson created “Watersheds,” a series of six digital prints mounted on plexiglass featuring maps and found objects, each focusing on the ties between communities and Mississippi’s watersheds – the Coastal Streams basin, Pascagoula River basin, Pearl River basin, Big Black River basin, and the Big Sunflower River and Yocona River, both Yazoo River sub-basins.
Johnson said the creative process included input from Children’s of Mississippi care team members and patients’ family members.
“The collaborative process I participated in alongside hospital staff, doctors and family groups – exchanging drafts and feedback on the work – was rewarding in that it ensured the works emerged as a conversation informed by the lives and spaces that animate the hospital,” Johnson said. “I feel a deep gratitude in sharing these works in the state’s only children’s hospital. It’s meaningful to play a small role in celebrating and embracing our Mississippi young people while they travel a difficult stretch of their path.”
Artist Shelley Ozbirn of Belmont celebrates childhood in 10 watercolor and ink paintings, which range from “Stars and Fireflies” and “Moon and Marshmallows” to “Wagon and Apple Tree.”
“I am very nostalgic,” she said. “Most of my artwork is inspired by my childhood, growing up in Mississippi, playing outside with my brothers and little sister. I like to recreate those memories with my watercolor paintings, giving the viewer a feeling that they could just step into the scene.”
Ozbirn said she is honored for her works to be on display in the state’s only children’s hospital. “It does my heart good to know that they are giving joy to kids.”
Jackson native Kit Fields painted a dozen images of animals – foxes and deer along with rabbits and puppies – for a corridor of the Sanderson Tower, and giclees of the works were made for patient rooms.
“I wanted to give the patients and their families comfort when they look at my paintings,” she said. “I painted them to be inviting to a child. Parents and children often come in with a feeling of angst and fear. A puppy or a bunny evokes a smile and can give a feeling of calm and peace.”
Fields said she considers it an honor to have her works in the Sanderson Tower. “I’ve always been a supporter of Children’s of Mississippi, and to know that I get to be a part of it in some small way is very rewarding.”
Artists whose works are featured in the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower include:
Dr. J. Mark Reed