Partnership with UA Museum of Art Brings Colorful, Inspiring Art to the Walls of the Health Sciences Education Building
“There was this beautiful new building with all these walls with blank spaces,” said W. James Burns, PhD (pictured above with artist Susan Berger), Director of the University of Arizona Museum of Art.
Staff from the museum came up from Tucson and determined that bringing exhibits to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus would introduce the museum to Phoenix residents and offer living Arizona artists an opportunity to show their work.
Initially, Dr. Burns wanted to offer visitors and medical students who attend classes in the HSEB “a safe space for thoughtful reflection.”
Soon after the first installment went up, Cynthia Standley, PhD, saw an additional opportunity for students.
Having artwork on the campus “offers everyone the freedom for artistic exploration to observe, interpret, reflect and gain insight into various perspectives on the world,” she said.
Dr. Standley developed the Program of Art in Medicine, which offers structured observation of artworks and discussion of fine arts concepts. The goal, she said, is to “improve students’ visual diagnostic and communication skills to ultimately enhance patient care.”
She said the art challenges existing perspectives and “also provides a source of enjoyment amidst the rigors of medical education.”
The current exhibit, which displays the colorful artwork of David Tineo, is highly regarded. Dr. Burns said Tineo’s work is thematically based on a timely issue: global borders.
“Tineo’s works are almost like spoken words,” he said. “People embracing one another in the midst of tragedy. Tineo conveys the message that our society shall overcome its troubles through love and hope. His works illustrate a recognition that truth and justice will ultimately prevail.”
Dr. Burns recalled a moment he shared with Tineo, an alumnus of the University of Arizona School of Art, in which the artist said, “Our world has come to a crossroads; borders, race, religion, skin color and sexual preference can no longer exist as barriers, for we are a great woven human tapestry.”
About a year and a half into the project, Dr. Burns met Dr. Standley. The partnership between the museum and the college is really a great fit, he said.
“We try to tailor the exhibits, so they can be used by the faculty and students as an opportunity for new engagement outside the classroom,” he said. “The exhibits lend themselves to humanities in medicine. It’s exciting because there are a lot of possibilities.”
The art, displayed in the 268,000-square-foot Health Sciences Education Building, has featured works by Arizonans Susan Berger, Scott Baxter and Sheila Pitt.
Baxter photographed Arizona ranchers, while Pitt’s exhibit, “Quadriplegia,” showed her transformation as a relief printmaker before and after a horse accident that left her a quadriplegic with only limited use of her left arm and hand.
Berger’s exhibit features black-and-white photographs of Martin Luther King Drives throughout the United States. She traveled the country, documenting what life is like on Martin Luther King Drive. Although Berger did not photograph all 900 streets named in honor of the civil rights leader, she came to understand the movement of people and cultures in America.
“Sometimes MLK Drive was a Hispanic neighborhood,” said Berger, whose works recently were moved from the first to the fifth floor of the HSEB. “In Los Angeles, it was a Jewish neighborhood that became an African-American neighborhood, which became a Hispanic neighborhood.” One of her big takeaways: “This country is filled with nice people.”
Dr. Burns said the goal of displaying artwork such as Berger’s is to “get people to think outside the boundaries of their own life and think about some of the life circumstances of the people they are treating.”
Berger said her goal for the MLK exhibit was to bring attention to the ongoing civil rights struggle and to help doctors learn how to understand their patients.
“If they are treating patients, whatever their ethnicity, they need to understand how they live, where they come from, how they grew up,” she said.