Darwin Shaver said he isn’t an “artsy” person, but he understands the value of atmosphere as a cancer patient.
“It’s a very, very, scary thing. First of all, it’s scary when you get word of cancer. I had friends who were doctors, but not everybody’s that lucky,” Shaver said.
That’s why the former Sparrow Hospital patient decided to give back to Sparrow with a gift toward the completion of the brand-new Herbert-Herman Cancer Center, slated to open Tuesday.
“The people at Sparrow, from the minute we started talking to them and meeting with them, you just felt you knew everything was going to be all right,” Shaver said. “We were treated with not only compassion, they explained everything in terms that the normal person could understand it.”
His gift is part of the $5 million that was donated to the center, and of that sum, $600,000 was spent on art. According to Shaver, that addition to the atmosphere matters. Especially for people coming for treatment the first time.
“If it’s something that helps them as they pull up to the building, and it’s something that takes their mind off of what they’re going through, it’s well worth what they’ve done.”
Dr. James Herman, medical director of the cancer center and one of the people the building is named after, agrees.
“Everybody used to say, ‘What do they need that stuff for?’ But data shows that if you provide that environment, add all the extra things beyond the sharp definition of treatment, you actually have better patient outcomes in terms of survival.”
A 1984 study by Swedish architect Roger S. Ulrich involved a hospital hallway, in which patients had either a view outside or a view of a brick wall. On average, those patients with the outside-facing window spent less time in the hospital.
And in fact, when humans look at something attractive, the subconscious can work harder than we know.
Studies of call centers conducted by Herman Miller found that employees could increase productivity by 7 percent if their workspace had a window within sight. Another study by Caltech found that viewing a subjectively good-looking product can even trigger an involuntary response to grab it.
Scott Kozaruk, the director of experiential graphics for Alliance Franchise Brands, has been studying the concept of creating a “healing environment” through art for over 20 years. He is hired across the nation to aid in the selection of art for medical institutions, and said there is more to it than just selecting paintings at random.
“I kept delving into behavioral health, labor and delivery, surgical, cardiology, cancer — there’s all sorts of studies that have been done in the industry about color, and the use of imagery, that is more pleasing in an environment where there’s unpredictable outcomes,” Kozaruk said. “It goes beyond the furniture, and the ergonomics, and the flooring, to the artwork and the color of the curtains and the colors of the walls — all of these variables play into it.”
Kozaruk partnered with Mary Swan, Sparrow’s interior designer, and Staci Bakkegaard, Sparrow’s manager of planning and design, among others, to seek out the 12 artists involved in the project.
Kozaruk said he was meticulous with his selections, because a wrong choice could have unintended side effects.
“It is proven that a heart rate will elevate if you’re looking at something and you don’t know what it is,” Kozaruk said. “In the medical profession, there are a lot of egos that want to see their credibility hung on a wall, meaning, ‘I want to see expensive artwork to promote confidence that we’re successful.’ And I get that, but in that particular case, you have an elderly group mostly, and you don’t want (the art) to be too abstract that they’re looking at.”
In other scenarios, the art can be useful.
“They used to put in baby delivery rooms a happy picture of a mother holding a baby. And the reality is that there’s a percentage of people that don’t have a positive experience and don’t walk out of a hospital room with a happy baby and a happy mother,” Kozaruk said. “Looking into it, what helped women when they went to the labor delivery room is a perspective in the picture, so that the woman, while giving birth, could focus on a point so that could distract her.”
The first piece of art that people will see as they pull up to the new cancer center is by artist Herb Babcock.
The 20-foot high sculpture, as yet unnamed, is a combination of glass and metal.
But Babcock sees it as much more than that. The placement of each piece was with a mood of importance in mind.
“In terms of sculptural juxtaposition, it’s sort of a precarious balance. That does reference the apex of a dance, where it goes up to the gesture of great significance — and of course, they can’t hold it — but everyone recognizes that that is just a very important time,” Babcock said.
Babcock described the piece in another way too.
“Being present, being in the present of yourself with your fellow person in front of you, for your fellow companion in front of you,” Babcock said.
That kind of mindfulness was not accidental. A c c o r ding to Kozaruk, the choice of each artist extended beyond their visual talent.
“I made recommendations because I believed the people that create the paintings are as significant to the campaign as the paintings themselves,” Kozaruk said.
This belief extended beyond the medium of painting and into ceramics, photography and sculpture, leading Kozaruk to choose the artists he did.
“So, each and every artist — whether I knew them or not — they were picked because what they paint had images that were pleasing, they were within our budget and they were all motivated, money aside, to participate with the idea that we’re creating an environment for healing,” Kozaruk said.
The Herbert-Herman Cancer Center is not only a cutting-edge medical facility, it features the collective works of 12 Michigan artists, each chosen meticulously to create an environment of healing.
The following are images of the work that each artist created, and what they hope it will do for hospital patients, staff and visitors.
Herb Babcock – Title TBD – W3 Sculpture In 1983, the sculptor merged glass and metal and began sculpting in the style he’s known for today. His 20-foot sculpture adorns the front of the Herbert-Herman Cancer Center, and he said he hopes it will be a positive discussion point for patients and visitors alike.“This piece is designed so that when you’re driving by on the road you can look over and see it, and register it when you arrive to the center and drop off,” Babcock said. “When people need to come out into the garden and just walk, there’s a conversation that’s all non-verbal. It will influence what they’re thinking, what they’re saying, the depth of those emotions and it plays into everything I’ve been working towards in my sculpture. All I can say is I’m honored they let me do that.”
Kaiser Suidan – Title TBD – Ceramic Installation The Milford Michigan native was inspired to work with clay in junior high and continued his work throughout high school. His talent and dedication eventually earned him a full scholarship from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit and his own art gallery called Next Step Studio & Gallery.His work for Sparrow is a collection of ceramic, wall-mounted cubes of a variety of colors. Suidan said he hopes viewers of his work experience joy, something that might be a welcome reprieve in a hospital setting.“My work is very colorful and playful, that makes a lot of people laugh, or brings smiles to their faces, if I can do that, then I’ve done my job,” Suidan said.
Stephanie Schlatter – Untitled – Acrylic on Canvas A Grand Rapids-based painter, Schlatter is in love with Leelanau and the Old Mission peninsula. It is the biggest inspiration for her work, and the place where she spends at least half of her year.Schlatter has been making art her whole life, but went back to school at 27 to pursue a career in photography. Studying photography led to studying all art and she “never put the camera down.”Schlatter specializes in landscapes because to her, to helps “evoke positive feelings when looking at a beautiful landscape.”That is a feeling she hopes that all who view her paintings will experience.
Kate Cosgrove – Title TBD - Community Art Piece Born and raised in Lansing, Kate Cosgrove is an illustrator. Her venture into what she calls “paper cut illustration,” began after she received an artist grant for an exhibit at the Lansing Art Gallery.There’s a community portion of the project that involves bringing in patients on Survivor Day and they’ll have an opportunity to write messages of hope or names of loved ones in water color over the top of her piece.For Cosgrove, there is a single word that she looked to for her piece’s inspiration.“Hope,” Cosgrove said. “I’ve had a few family and friends who have battled with cancer and it just seems that hope above all, you need to have that to make it through whatever you’re dealing with.”
Jan Mayer – “Trees of Color” and “Serene” – Acrylic on Canvas With a career of creating art for medical organizations spanning more than 30 years, the Michigan resident and Parsons School of Design graduate cancer survivor understands the healing benefits of art. Mayer said that sometimes as a patient, she’d go to the hospital and not see anything that was uplfiting. She hopes that her work will not only benefit patients but hospital staff too.“One oncologist told me that he walks through the hospital, and when he’s on his way to his office, it quiets him down for the day,” Mayer said. “I hope the patients and other people will stop. He said I feel the painting are spiritual. They’re happy, but there’s something that’s serene.”
Joshua Diedrich – “Healing Tree” – Bronze Sculpture Diedrich was a born sculptor. So much so that the Kalamazoo-based artist’s first memory is of him holding a woodpecker that he’d sculpted out of aluminum foil. Fast forward to today, and he is on the faculty of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.Diedrich’s “Healing Tree” exemplifies his talents in an interactive work of art. The six-foot piece is meant to be tactile, and reachable by everyone.“It’s something that’s designed for people to be able to come up and interact with. The plan is that they’re supposed to tie a (cancer awareness) ribbon (of their choice) onto it, whenever they come in and are treated or cured at Sparrow,” Diedrich said.
Craig Mitchell Smith – “Lifted” –Glass Ceiling Sculpture A Lansing native, Smith has been creating art all his life. In 2010, he opened his local glass gallery and has been creating intricate glasswork out of the area ever since. Smith’s piece for the center involves 100 pieces of glass that each take two days to complete and involved his studio’s full production capability to finish in time for the center’s opening.Smith said that his piece is meant to evoke soothing thoughts of water.“It’s clouds, or organic forms, so you can read into it what you will. Is it water? Is it fish? It’s just alive,” Smith said.The piece is also strategically placed at eye level to create a sightline to take the viewer’s eye all the way to the top.
Ann Loveless – “Sunset Collage” – Quilted Collage Frankfort Michigan native and two-time winner of Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize competition, Loveless was approached by Sparrow a month ago. Her works look like paintings from afar, but only up close do they give away that they are quilts.The MSU Alumna graduated with a degree in clothing and textile design, but didn’t find her love of landscape quilting until 2004. She hopes her work will bring “calm and peace” to patients and visitors.“I think fabric is automatically warm and inviting and comforting, almost like putting on your favorite sweater,” Loveless said. “I think if someone has something else to focus on, they can maybe focus on this art for five to ten minutes instead of cancer.”
George Peebles – Untitled – Oil on Canvas A specialist in landscape oils, Peebles’ paintings are done from memory and an “inward expression of his emotion.” Peebles’ award-winning work is energetic and bright, despite his red-green colorblindness. He began painting in 1980 and attended Kendall College of Art and Design, majoring in five subjects: painting, drawing, sculpture, print-making and photography. Eventually he helped open the fine arts department at the school, and is now featured in over a dozen hospitals.“I’m currently featured in probably 17 hospitals. Usually it’s art and healing. I want it for people to be calming and reassuring, my colors are bright and vibrant,” Peebles said.
Mario Lopez – Title TBD – Pewabic Tile Wall When Lopez was approached last year to create a piece, he said he realized that the center was inspired by the Pewabic tile arches present at the Detroit People Mover’s Cadillac Center Station.Lopez didn’t want to create a piece that copied the arches, so he decided to do something radial.“It’s the sun. It could be a rising sun, it could be a setting sun. The sun is one of those things that’s cyclical, and it’s a reminder of time and the illusion of time as well as the preciousness of time, and capturing those moments,” Lopez said.The Pewabic tile’s reflective quality is such that the piece changes color at different points in the day.
Lindy Bishop – “Monarchy,” “On High” and “Calling Angels” – Oil over Acrylic on Canvas Bishop comes from an artistic family, and in school Bishop noticed she had a natural talent. However, it wasn’t until after she finished studying advertising at MSU that she began to consider her painting as potential for a career.Her home of Traverse City has inspired Bishop’s work significantly, but she carries some abstract elements in her artwork as well. Bishop said that she hopes that onlookers at Sparrow Hospital can look at her paintings and create some of their imagery.“They can imagine that, because no one’s really saying this in person — it could be something totally different to them,” Bishop said. “If it motivates people to think and to have images come to mind that are positive, that would feel really good to me.”
Monte Nagler – Bond Falls – Photograph on Aluminum Nagler never took a picture until he was 30.“If somebody told me I was going to be a photographer when I was in my 20s, I would have just laughed at them,” Nagler said.But become a photographer he did, and University of Michigan graduate eventually worked with Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park to improve his photography.His piece is a panorama of a waterfall in the Upper Peninsula, that from one side shows summer, and from the other shows fall, that is intended to conjure up a relaxing image.“The biggest satisfaction of all that I do, is knowing that a patient of mine can get through a procedure, or something in the hospital a little easier,” Nagler said.