Liturgical stained glass artists find parallel in healthcare artwork

April 1, 2011
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Art glass feature in new chapel/meditation room at Cheshire Medical Center-Dartmouth Hitchcock. Three windows designed into a cohesive triptych
Images courtesy of Newmann Studios and Chesire Medical Center
Rick Neumann and Liza King are the principals of Neumann Studios. Together, they have developed significant stained glass projects in the old master style for more than 30 years. Historically, their work was developed for liturgical or residential projects, but over the past 10 years, their focus shifted to include educational, corporate, and healthcare opportunities. The advent of sophisticated structures, large expanses of glass, and integrated art glass treatments in hospital architecture is inspiring to Neumann and King, and they became interested in collaborating with architects and clients on healthcare opportunities.

Though they work in ancient techniques of stained glass fabrication-employing mouth-blown glass, acid etching with a beeswax/sheep tallow resist, silver staining, and paint pigments mixed by hand and fired into the glass-their compositions and use of form, color, and design are truly modern and dynamic. There is a rewarding mixture of Old World tradition and contemporary design in a Neumann Studios window.

Through their experience with liturgical stained glass, Neumann and King understood the importance of setting a tone, creating an ambiance, and generally enveloping the viewer in a peaceful glow of introspection. It is true that our modern existence, lit brightly by electricity, has enabled us to forget the magic and importance of light. In a world where technology is quickly obsolete, stained glass whispers of something ancient, timeless, and mysterious. It beckons as a respite from the buzz of our chaotic world. To sit and contemplate a design that is both dynamic and peaceful allows us to appreciate the beauty of a moment; this interlude is a luxury.

In our daily lives, this type of experience is often left unattended; many people no longer go to churches, synagogues, or places of worship where stained glass is prevalent, and so they miss the opportunity to experience this art form. Neumann and King believe stained glass should be included in more environments and realize that the liturgical mission is parallel to the purpose of healthcare artwork. The use of bold iconography, an uplifting theme, elements of nature, and setting a tone of hopefulness are all important aspects in healthcare art.

In 2009, Neumann and King were contacted by Abe Visser of Avcor Planning Associates. Visser, a purchasing expert for healthcare initiatives, was working with Cheshire Medical Center-Dartmouth Hitchcock (CMC-DH) on an art glass feature for its new chapel/meditation room. Though Visser manages purchases ranging from surgical suites to furnishings, he also has a keen interest in elevating patient, visitor, and staff experiences through art and artistic enhancements. He feels the inclusion of art is a significant aspect of improved patient care and facility performance.

CMC-DH and Visser worked together on a number of projects, including a significant piece of artwork with Clowes Sculpture for the new CMC-DH Kingsbury Cancer Center. When tasked with seeking an artist for the new chapel windows, Visser contacted Lindell Artist Agency, the artistic manager for Clowes Sculpture, for suggestions on a glass artist. The agency was familiar with the work of Neumann Studios and recommended Neumann and King for the opportunity.

The art committee for this project was a subcommittee of the pastoral ministries association. Visser introduced Neumann and King to the committee made up of the Reverend Nancy Wood; Paul Pezone, senior vice president of facilities; Dr. Arthur Cohen; and the Reverend John Reilly. In many commission situations, a client has no preconceived concept about the content of a window; but in this case, the CMC-DH committee had already determined that a triptych of windows depicting the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth would be ideal. They wanted the windows to include nondenominational icons and universal symbols with a spiritual quality. Their vision for the artwork was clear: In addition to drawing people into the chapel, the committee sought an artwork to be inclusive of faith, nature, and the power of hope. These themes insured the chapel and window would serve as a welcoming meditation room to any visitor, staff member, physician, or patient at CMC-DH.

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