Creatively Expressing Nursing Science

Forefront Magazine, Fall 2019
Artwork created by Cleveland Institute of Art students informed by CWRU Nursing Students for the art show, "Infecting the Human Experience."

By Michael Scott

Art and science were blended together last spring when students from the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) and Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing displayed their collaborative artwork interpreting health issues from HIV to bed bugs.

The "Infecting the Human Experience" exhibition at CIA's Ann and Norman Roulete Student + Alumni Gallery featured work from students in Michael Meier's 100 Drawings class. Research from undergraduate nursing students in Irena Kenneley's microbiology class informed the pieces.

"For the artists, the challenge was 'How do I convey a complex idea in a way that will communicate to the person who views it?'" said Kenneley, an associate professor at the nursing school. "But for our nursing students, it was about stepping outside of their accustomed ways of learning to doing something ambiguous and uncomfortable--but the razor's edge is where you grow."

About 80 students from Kenneley's class met regularly throughout the winter semester with about 17 art students to come up with the artwork, including fiber art, paintings, metal etchings and a large sculpture.

This year's project was inspired by a similar collaboration between the two institutions three years ago led by Professor Joachim Voss. The first project resulted in a series of posters and comic books illustrating various health care topics.

"In both of these, the idea is for our nursing students to begin developing an emotional intelligence, a visual intelligence," Voss said. "In their very ordered world, there will always be one thing that is very 'un-ordered,' and that is the patient."

Kenneley agreed, saying that an experience like this may be one of the few times the nursing students are stepping outside the more analytical and regimented teaching and learning methods of nursing education.

"There's not a textbook for this," she said. "But we believe this is important, nonetheless."

Web Extra from the Cleveland Institute of Art