The art of healing: At UT Southwestern Frisco, patients will find the beauty within
March 9, 2019
Make no mistake, there is an art to choosing the artwork for a medical facility like UT Southwestern Frisco, opening in December.
Courtney Crothers, curator for all of UT Southwestern’s campuses, draws from a broad palette of aesthetics, eliciting a variety of emotions – she looks for works that are inspirational and soothing, contemporary and contemplative, vibrant and innovative.
“The artwork is not merely decorative,” Ms. Crothers says. “At UT Southwestern, I search for art that is uplifting with a cheerful color palette, is contemporary and abstract, and is a great reflection on our innovation as an academic medical center.”
Her hunt for the Frisco art installation began in January 2019, when she reached out to her well-developed network of galleries that represent local, national, and even international artists. (Before joining UT Southwestern, Ms. Crothers served as administration director of Fine and Decorative Arts at Heritage Auctions, operations manager at SMU’s Meadows Museum, and worked at the Pillsbury & Peters Fine Art gallery in Dallas.)
Artistic harmony, from the ground floor up
For UT Southwestern Frisco, Ms. Crothers has selected 262 total pieces: 57 original works and 205 photographs.
She intends to harmonize artistic motifs with the leading-edge medical specialties found on each floor.
For example, the ground floor is home to physical medicine and rehabilitation, in addition to the retail pharmacy and a conference center, so the art underscores movement and rhythm.
Take Trey Egan’s work, called You Never Give Up On Us, the first piece people will see as they enter the building from the parking garage. “The painting is gestural, with a lyrical quality that invites the eye to dance across and around the surface,” says Ms. Crothers, describing the large abstract with splashes of yellow, blue, and white.
Then there’s the vibrant movement in Vincent Falsetta’s DJ 12-2, which will be positioned behind the main check-in desk. (Both Dallas artists also have paintings on view at UT Southwestern’s main campus.)
Tom Orr’s etchings Waterfall I, II, III, suggest movement using simple lines and a single color. Orr’s interest in moiré patterning is a hallmark of his work; these deceptively simple and beautiful prints are but one series within his years-long exploration.
Cavatina, a geometric acrylic on shaped canvas by Santa Fe artist Mokha Laget, features vivid colors sure to catch the attention of patients just inside the main entrance. Laget achieves color saturation using clay-based pigment, which also produces a velvety quality to the surface. Cavatina’s bold shapes seem to unfold across the wall.
Ms. Crothers applies foundational ideas to all of the art installations at UT Southwestern, including at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital and the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Certainly, the art should not be confrontational,” says Ms. Crothers. “Nor should it have a particular narrative – nothing overtly religious or political, for example. Museums and galleries fill the necessary role of showing artwork with specific narratives and facilitating conversations about those narratives. We are presenting contemporary art in a very unexpected setting, offering a visually appealing introduction to abstract art to people who might never visit a gallery.”
Bathed in color and nature
On the second floor at UT Southwestern Frisco – home to pediatrics; ear, nose and throat; ophthalmology; and surgery – the art will exude color and form.
Anna Bogatin Ott’s Firebird is an acrylic on canvas “where each of the horizontal bands is actually a series of vertical brush strokes applied in rhythm with the artist’s breathing,” describes Ms. Crothers.
A rainbow-colored diptych called With Your Permission by Chicago artist Gian Garofalo will bridge the space between pediatrics and otolaryngology, one of the largest specialties at UT Southwestern Frisco.
In the general surgery area, Jason Middlebrooks’ mesmerizing geometric acrylic on walnut will be hung near a large window, representing an extension to the indoors of the landscape visible outside. (UT Southwestern physicians will also be performing surgery at the adjoining Texas Health Frisco hospital.)
On the third floor, with plastic surgery, dermatology, urology, phlebotomy, and orthopaedics and spine, the art choices turn inexorably to nature. A small landscape by Rosalyn Bodycomb conveys deeply calming reflections in water. Joan Winter’s series of abstract prints show early morning light glittering off water.
Rebecca Shewmaker’s dyed and embroidered landscape measures less than 12-inches square, but Ms. Crothers says it is quite powerful.
“I first saw Ms. Shewmaker’s work at a contemporary show at Dallas’ NorthPark Center,” she recalls. “I was totally blown away.”
Ms. Crothers wanted to incorporate as many North Texas artists as possible and that led her to, among others, Frisco-based Barbara Mason, a retired UT Southwestern ultra-sonographer.
“I’m so excited to include her work in our collection,” enthuses Ms. Crothers, who was impressed with Ms. Mason’s mastery of pastels in Serengeti Sunset.
Related story: Read an interview with the ultra-sonographer turned ultra-cool artist
'In both art and medicine, I've always had a desire to capture the essence of humanity and help people find balance in their lives.'
Artwork in the exam rooms and clinical corridors differs thematically from the work in waiting rooms and other public spaces, says Ms. Crothers. In private clinical areas, framed photography features clouds, flowers, and water scenes, as well as sweeping landscape scenes.
"Some research supports the idea that landscape and nature imagery contribute to healing and calming patients in stressful situations," she says. "That informed the selection of what type of imagery to install in patient care areas.”
The Frisco location will showcase landscape and nature photography by Byron Jorjorian in all of its examination rooms and clinical corridors.
Partnering with HKS Architects and Gena English, UT Southwestern’s Director of Planning and Design, Ms. Crothers has arranged the art throughout the facility. Beginning the week of Nov. 11, she will supervise the mounting of all the art on the walls and the installation should be complete by Nov. 20.
“Believe it or not,” says Ms. Crothers, “It only takes a week to 10 days to install everything.”
But the artistic journey in Frisco won’t end there.
Ms. Crothers says she wants to delve deeper into art’s singular role at UT Southwestern, and she believes Frisco is the perfect city to partner with on tours and special events showcasing UT Southwestern Frisco’s collection.
“I really want to explore in greater detail how people react to art in a clinical setting,” she says. “Do they feel the collection has a positive effect on their mood and experience?
“The City of Frisco is supportive of the arts and its artistic community,” she adds, “and it could be a great collaborator in showing how viewing art and the act of creating contribute to healing and wellness.”