The Cleveland Clinic is world renowned for its treatment and service, something that it holds as a significant point of pride. It's only fitting then, that their art collection be similarly spectacular, something that Joanne Cohen, executive director and curator at the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavilion and Heart and Vascular Institute, has attempted to achieve in the new center. “The reason we have an art collection is that our mission is to enrich, enliven, and inspire our patients, visitors, employees, and the community,” says Cohen. “It's sort of a tall order because we're looking to engage with a lot of different people. But mostly, it's about enhancing the experience here. The Cleveland Clinic creates high standards for everything, so we thought that our art collection should be in keeping with that. We really wanted to raise the bar on having art in the hospital setting.”

As a part of The Cleveland Clinic's newest building in Cleveland, Ohio, the art installation in the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavilion and Heart and Vascular Institute is wide-ranging and diverse. Hosting primarily contemporary artworks, the hospital displays sculptures, paintings, photographs, and video installations, as well as more conceptual dance performances and musicians. When the installation is completed, the institute will have over 1,500 art posters as well as large commissioned pieces and original works of art.

Jennifer Nocon, Dissolving the Hardness of Ego, 2007. Hand-dyed wool felt

Jennifer Nocon, Dissolving the Hardness of Ego, 2007. Hand-dyed wool felt

Aside from matching the design aesthetic of building itself, which Cohen describes as minimal and having a clean palette, the art in the surrounding areas of the hospital serves a number of purposes; most importantly, it helps to alleviate some of the stress and angst associated with the building. “We really wanted to raise the bar on having art in the hospital setting,” Cohen says. “We tend to find that in a lot of hospitals, the art is like the art you would find in an airport: pretty landscapes, nothing that rocks the boat. It begins to take on a wallpaper effect. We wanted to have things that were unusual: things that might make you think, transport you to somewhere else, distract you, or grant you a moment of levity or beauty. These are all great experiences to have in a place that is so angst-ridden, where so many people are stressed out. Anything we can do to try and alleviate that, even in a little way, makes a huge difference.”

In keeping with the hospital's mission, Cohen and her team sought out the help of not only internationally renowned artists but also artists from the community in an attempt to give the artwork cultural as well as geographical relevance while promoting local artists. “There was certainly an effort for local art,” Cohen says. “We had two exhibition spaces and, with the construction, we lost them. But we have a new dedicated space opening in three to four weeks that is a 100-feet running gallery, which is going to be great, linking the two new buildings. We will do shows, probably, every three to four months. Traditionally, when we had the two exhibition spaces, we would use one to spotlight national or international artists and the other exhibition to highlight regional talent and regional artists. We'll continue to do that. It's another opportunity to look in our neighborhood and our backyard for the great talent that's out there, whether it's a solo-artist show or a thematic show where we bring in a lot of different artists.”
© Sarah Morris, “Three Swans,” 2008

© Sarah Morris, “Three Swans,” 2008

An interest in local artists is not the only theme that pervaded the collection. As Cohen explains, the hospital took into account artists that dealt with the human body and condition. As such, Jaume Plensa, the artist responsible for the “kidney bean” statue in Chicago's Millennium Park was commissioned for two pieces, including a large, meditating human figure made entirely of random letters. Another theme Cohen notes is the presence of innovative materials and a focus on the artists that use them. As such, there are pieces made of colored felt, pieces made of steel, and collages made of toys.

The sheer breadth of the collection in the hospital is impressive as well. Making a concerted effort to fill the hospital with art, every patient room has some piece of art in it. “One of the things that we have is a mandate in the new buildings to have fine art posters in every exam room,” says Cohen. “There are 276 patient rooms and those either have fine art posters prints or, in some cases, actual artwork, in the VIP rooms. Every room has something to look at.”

Interestingly, the artwork, primarily the larger pieces, are not just used as aesthetic additions. Next to each piece is an educational placard that tells a little about the piece and artist, and as a further extension of this educational aspect, the hospital will be implementing an audio tour in the coming months. In the case of larger pieces, the hospital uses them as distinct wayfinding markers. Included on indoor maps of the building are the placement of these larger works so that patients and visitors have a very visual connection to the wayfinding.
© Jaume Plensa, “Cleveland Soul,” 2007

© Jaume Plensa, “Cleveland Soul,” 2007

Nam June Paik, Evolution, Revolution, Resolution, 1989. Color lithographs

Nam June Paik, Evolution, Revolution, Resolution, 1989. Color lithographs

But for all of the extra uses and benefits that the various pieces afford, Cohen understands what the real purpose and goal of the art is: To alleviate stress and transport patients', visitors', and the faculty's minds away from the clinical setting. “Things that might resonate, things that are beautiful, spiritual, that give you laughter or a moment of joy in some different way, those are all the main things.”

HD

For more information call 214.444.0141 or visit http://my.clevelandclinic.org.

Healthcare Design 2009 March;9(3):50-51