Upon entering the new atrium at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire, visitors are greeted with a large, welcoming statement of healing and renewal in the form of “Changing Seasons”, a 13′6″ × 11′6″ fused glass and steel installation created by artists Dr. Kathleen Kimball and Caroline Parent of Dover, New Hampshire-based cp-kik. By showing autumn at sunset, winter at midnight, spring at dawn, and summer at high noon, the work combines the 24-hour circadian rhythm with the larger cycle of the four seasons to make a powerful statement on the healing process without saying a word.

Kimball and Parent have been making art together for about five years now and formed cp-kik about 18 months ago as a way to serve the healthcare market. “We recognized that our joint aesthetic really was related to cultivating within people a kind of neuroaesthetic response related to healing”, says Dr. Kimball. “Through cp-kik, we've tried to bring a sense of well-being through art. We find that the healthcare industry is interested in leveraging wellness for their patients and using whatever modalities are available.

“Whenever we make art, we try to be site-specific”, Dr. Kimball continues. “We take into account the architecture, purpose, and materials that are being employed by the client. In the healthcare market specifically, there are universal themes that relate to both cyclical and linear aspects of the nexus between time and space. For example, when you look at 'Changing Seasons,' you'll see that the location of due south is a place where things become very visible. These natural rhythms imply a sense of renewal and wholeness, which seems particularly appropriate for a healthcare environment”.

The expansion project at St. Joseph Hospital had been in the planning stages for quite some time. When Lavallee/Brensinger was selected as the architectural firm on the project, cp-kik was brought in. “We looked at the space and were given information about St. Joseph's mission and what they wanted to accomplish”, says Parent. “We then met with the architect to see what the finishes were, so things could be as harmonious as possible. Once we were commissioned to do the piece, it took about nine months to create from start to finish.

“Fused glass is usually done in smaller scale”, Parent continues. “There were 64 panels assembled to make this piece, some of which required several firings. We also hired C.R. Laurence Company in Los Angeles to create a stainless-steel retaining system that we designed to project off the wall and supported by steel columns within the wall”.

“It was a fabulous process”, says St. Joseph's Vice-President of Marketing Julie Eberhart, who worked closely with the artists. “The artists did a lot of background work to understand St. Joseph Hospital as a faith-based organization and interviewed several people throughout the hospital, as well. They created a piece that really did a fantastic job of portraying our mission through the art. The idea of the changing seasons has a lot to do with the circle of life, which is a big component of our philosophy–helping patients from sickness to health, or even through a journey of life that ends in death. The piece really reflects the patient's journey, starting in fall, moving through winter, and then finally into spring and summer”.

“Because this is a Catholic hospital, we tried to relate to the theology and the literature that was important to that religion”, continues Dr. Kimball. “To that end, we cited Ecclesiastes. There is a time to reap, a time to sow, a time to laugh, a time to cry–but there is always time to heal”.

Since its installation (achieved in one day with assistance from Budel Construction of Rochester, New Hampshire), “Changing Seasons” has generated rave reviews from patients, visitors, and staff. “I think we really surprised many people with the art”, says Parent. “While St. Joseph's is a Catholic hospital, there is a sense of spirituality that is underlined without simply resorting to a giant crucifix or a saint on the wall. It really helped usher the hospital into a new era”.

“People love it”, says Eberhart. “It brings out a lot of pride. As viewers connect to the piece and understand how the piece connects to us, they are very impressed”.

Beyond the scope and immediate beauty of the physical installation, however, “Changing Seasons” is meant to touch viewers on a much deeper and long-lasting level. “There is a tremendous amount of research coming out of the field of neuroaesthetics, the notion that what you look at literally primes your brain to want to see it again, even as it alters the very patterns of your neural network”, explains Dr. Kimball. “This has profound implications for people looking at scenes of wholeness and having the experience of hope, improvement, and renewal. To have art that suggests this is key to the healing environment. This will have an impact on the viewer's sense of well-being in the moment, but it also primes the brain to see wellness as they progress through their time in the hospital”. HD