Art for the Spirit

CWRU Alumna Helps Bring Cleveland Clinic Contemporary Collection to Public Spaces

4 photographs of Lake Erie with the far right two showing the lake with icePHOTO: Courtesy of Catherine Opie and Regen Projects

Four photographs, part of a series of 22 of Lake Erie taken by Catherine Opie in 2010-2011 and titled, Somewhere in the Middle. All photography courtesy of Cleveland Clinic.

Headshot of Jennifer Finkel, Curator

Jennifer Finkel, curator

As an art historian and curator in the Art Program at Cleveland Clinic, I am reminded daily about the impact of artwork. I see patients and their families engage with our contemporary art collection, and I hope that for this one moment, they’re not thinking about why they are in the hospital.

During the last 10 years, we have heard from hundreds of patients and family members about how much the artwork means to them. They include a mother whose daughter spent four months in the neonatal intensive-care unit of the Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital, on the verge of dying many times. She emailed a note of thanks to artist Catherine Opie, whom we commissioned for a series of photographs of Lake Erie. She told Opie that the images helped her face the sadness each day, and that getting lost in them was her only relief—if just for a few seconds.

Abstract image using various colors that is from digital animationPHOTO: Courtesy of Jacco Olivier and Marianne Boesky Gallery

Flow (still from video) from Jacco Olivier's 2016-2017 digital animation.

This is why I do what I do. We know that experiencing art in a hospital setting is charged with a different set of emotions. Our goal is to display art that can transport, distract and inspire the viewer.

Our art collection has an impact. For instance, 73 percent of the nearly 1,000 patients who responded to a recent Clinic study said their mood was somewhat or significantly improved by the art.

Since 2006, we have tripled the size of our collection to 6,300 objects. But for me, the most exciting aspect is working with artists we commission for a particular location.

Abstract sculpture of many vertical pieces of neon-color powder-paintedPHOTO: Courtesy of Rana Begum and the Third Line Gallery

No. 688 created by Rana Begum in 2015-2016, with paint on powder-coated aluminum.

For the newly opened Taussig Cancer Institute on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, we worked closely with the architects and institute’s administration to understand the space and patient needs. We then collaborated with local, national and international artists to develop a dozen site-specific installations.

For example, we commissioned Amsterdam artist Jacco Olivier to create a video, Flow, which he likens to an animated Henri Rousseau painting. It provides a nature walk through a lush landscape, encouraging the viewer to slow down and experience trees, flowers, grass and sky.

A piece of abstract art that is being hung from the ceiling. The sculpture is made out of blue aluminum pieces and is modelled after an icebergPHOTO: Thom Sivo Photography

BlueBerg (r11i01), created by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle in 2007 with 1,620 tubes of anodized aluminium. Its dimensions are based on those of an actual iceberg.
A large painted aluminum structure forming various sharp edges located outside in a green-space aluminumPHOTO: Eva Rothschild and Modern Art

Live Edge, a painted aluminum sculpture by Eva Rothschild, 2016.

We have an unofficial motto in our department adopted from a print in our collection by artist Jonathan Borofsky, titled Art is for the Spirit. We like to say, “Medicine can cure you, but art heals the spirit.”

—Jennifer Finkel