‘The newest, biggest
An eclectic collection of art at St. Luke’s
By ADAM TANOUS
Express Arts Editor
The St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center
will no doubt bring all sorts of new services to the Wood River Valley. It
is, after all, a state-of-the-art hospital.
Will Caldwell, an artist and member of the
art advisory council of the hospital, likes to refer to it differently.
"It is the newest, biggest art gallery in town."
Caldwell may have a point. In unveiling its
new facility, the Medical Center also introduced to the community its new
art program. Headed up by Joan O’Neil, the art committee of the hospital
has seen to the acquisition—primarily through the solicitation of
donations—of more than 250 pieces of art. It is an eclectic mix from
both valley artists and others, notably David Hockney, Alexander Calder,
Russell Chatham and Joseph Alvarez. The art works are exhibited throughout
O’Neil, Ann Agnew—another member of the
committee—and Caldwell met recently with me about the program.
The pieces at the hospital fall roughly
into the categories of permanent collection, art on loan, and art for
sale. Agnew said 47 of the 250 pieces exhibited came from the old
hospital. Another 60 or so were donated to the hospital’s permanent
collection. Still another 44 pieces are on loan from private collectors
and art galleries in town. The balance of the art hanging at the hospital
is part of the Art for Sale program. This is art created by local artists,
O’Neil pointed out. These particular pieces will be rotated every six
months, unless, of course, they are purchased. Near each piece of work is
a listing of the artist, contact point and price.
Caldwell and Bellevue resident Karen Vance
helped the art committee identify and contact artists in the valley. At
present, there are approximately 25 local artists with work exhibited in
The program had a fairly humble beginning.
O’Neil recalled going to a meeting for the interior design of the
hospital. She had raised the question as to what would hang on the walls.
It was suggested to her that they "just buy posters." She was a
bit taken aback by this. It then occurred to her, "There was so much
talent in this valley that we could tap into." O’Neil subsequently
Agnew offered that the Art Committee has
two goals: "One is that the art community gets exposure it might not
ordinarily get and, two, that we keep the hospital as beautiful as we
It is fair to say they have achieved both
of their goals. Entering the hospital lobby, one is greeted by two large
paintings by James Cool on loan from the Gail Severn Gallery. Upstairs one
finds a long hallway peppered with art—a sort of promenade of valley
artists. As O’Neil said, "It is somewhat unique to be able to see
the whole spectrum of local artists in one place." Even the chapel is
painted with murals by resident Martine Drackett.
The committee, in deference to the patients’
privacy, has decided to keep all of the rotating work in the more public
areas: the lobby, cafeteria and main arteries of travel. With these
considerations in mind, hanging the work was no small feat. O’Neil said
the committee hired a professional to help them, nonetheless, the task was
daunting. Agnew added that the day the 250 pieces of art were delivered to
the hospital, they all wondered, "How do we possibly do this?"
The task of hanging took them close to five
There is one special corridor in the
hospital: the hall of children’s art. Every school in the area has a
large space in which students have displayed their art work. From the
youngsters at Bellevue Elementary to the teen-agers of the Wood River High
School, children of the valley have their own opportunity for expression
in a very public space.
Pretty much anywhere one goes in the
hospital, save the operating rooms—and presumably no one will be looking
at the walls there—he will find something aesthetically pleasing and/or
It seems somewhat fitting in this area
replete with artists and art galleries that even the hospital has become a
cultural center. Don’t wait to get sick before enjoying it. Art has a
way of healing us, even if we aren’t in need of healing.