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Cambridge Tower A's Eclectic Art will Transport, Engage, Heal


October 12, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Kan.  — Illuminating neurons. Kinetic sculptures. Paintings created entirely from postage stamps. Beeswax art. Multi-panel abstract landscapes. One thing's for sure. A visit to the new Cambridge Tower A will be a visual feast for the eyes.

When it opens in early November, the tower will feature an impressive collection of art for patients, their families and visitors to enjoy. About 75 works are in the collection, representing 20 different artists.

The University of Kansas Health System has long been a proponent that art can have a strong, positive physiological effect on the brain, help reduce stress for patients, increase satisfaction with care and assist in the healing process.

The belief aligns with a growing body of evidence that paintings and other works of art are just good medicine.

"We make a practice of turning to art as part of our mission to create a healing environment," said Jon Jackson, consultant on the Cambridge Tower A project and the health system's former senior vice president and chief administrative officer.

"In many of our facilities you'll find beautiful works of art gracing the halls, lobbies, dining spaces and waiting areas," he added. "Each piece in the new Cambridge Tower A reflects a healing environment dedicated to exceptional care."

Paintings and sculptures are located on the first, second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh floor lobbies, hallways, dining spaces and waiting areas. Media run the gamut, from oils, acrylics, kiln-fired glass, woven photography, cast aluminum, encaustic (hot wax) art and carved wood. Works of art are created from Japanese flash cards, postage stamps, strips of photography woven into images, and more.

Transformative power

Consultant Ed Tranin, who curated the collection, also assembled art collections in the cancer treatment center on the Westwood Campus, the Center for Advanced Heart Care and the Medical Office Building.

While the collection is eclectic, Tranin said a common theme unites the varied pieces.

"With each selection, we made a deliberate effort to provoke curiosity and thought … to engage the viewer on multiple levels," he said.

For example, one large piece of art in the Cambridge Tower A Library is a 16-foot-long painting resembling the state of Kansas. As you look closer, you'll notice topography, county lines and a backlit highway system. Scattered across the state are handwritten sketchbook journal notes about things unique to Kansas, like crop circles, oil rigs, wheat combines, native plants and animals.

"The idea was to draw people in, help them leave the stress they're feeling behind and transport them into the art," Tranin said. "What better place to find that kind of transformative power than in a medical building?"

Neuro theme reflected

Themes specific to the building's purpose are reflected as well. A 100-foot-long piece, entitled Synapse, was created from 70 kiln-fired multi-colored glass bowls. They range in size up to 4 feet in diameter, with designs based on patterns found in nature. The bowls are interconnected with twisting metal tubing "synapses."

The "neuron" bowls are programmed to illuminate and communicate with adjacent bowls at various speeds and in unique patterns. "Viewers can either walk by it, or pause and watch the subtly moving lights and patterns," Tranin said. "It's designed to be interesting, reflective and relaxing."

Synapse is mounted in the two-story lobby wall and is the largest artwork in the facility's collection.

Building on the neurological theme, the health system commissioned two oil paintings from a local artist with synesthesia, a neurological condition that allows her to see colors, textures and movements in the sounds she hears. Her paintings are inspired by songs and incorporate vibrant colors and lively textures to depict the movement of music.

Most of the pieces were acquired or commissioned especially for the new tower. Though the majority are by local artists, several notable regional, national and international artists are represented as well.

Triad, a 25-foot-tall metal sculpture at the corner of 39th and State Line, was installed Sept. 13. It can be enjoyed by pedestrians and drivers outside and from the inside by staff and visitors in the dining space overlooking the courtyard.

"This sculpture was selected because it moves with precision but has some unexpected dance-like movements," Tranin said. "It is mesmerizing to watch and will definitely lower stress."

Jackson hopes everyone will take time to stop and appreciate the wide and varied collection. "Whether you work here, are a patient or visitor, we hope these works of art will inspire, calm, comfort and uplift," he said. "We're excited to share it with employees and the community."

Donors help make art possible

The health system thanks the members of the community, local businesses and employees who made generous donations to support the art collection:

  • Bill and Denise Bade – painting by Melissa McCracken, second floor between the grand staircase and coffee bar

  • Joel and Judy Cerwick/Cerwick Family Foundation – Synapse glass art wall in the main lobby

  • David and Linda Gentile – Untouchable II, a painting by Kelly Porter, respite corridor

  • Minksy's Pizza – Everything that Lies Before Us, a painting by Clare Doventon, fifth floor elevator lobby; and Libris Nos. 4 and 5 by Jeff Robinson, sixth floor waiting area

  • Department of Surgery, The University of Kansas Physicians, Thomas G. Orr Surgical Society – Triad sculpture, Garden Terrace (Regnier)

  • Kay Martin (in memory of Tom Martin) – Systems, a sculpture by David Hoyt, staircase

Many pieces remain available to designate as a tribute for a loved one or provider. Learn more by emailing or calling Barb Head, Fund Development senior director, 913-588-8188.

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