An unexpected partnership brought art to the new McLaren Hospital.
The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center curated three permanent art installations featuring two sculptures and a canvas for the hospital. The works were purchased by the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation for the hospital which opened on 6 March at Collins Road.
Barb Whitney, the art gallery’s chief executive, said talks about a partnership between the two organizations began before the pandemic hit. Whitney approached Katrina Daniels, the exhibitions and gallery sales manager, to curate the collection.
“We wanted to make sure that through the art choices we were contributing to McLaren’s goals, their mission and the designer’s goals,” Daniels said. “McLaren wanted a work that is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing and also something that contributes to a healing space.”
Daniels said that much of hospital design revolves around natural light, clean lines, and lots of shades of blue. The pieces she chose had to fit into this aesthetic and also fit into the large open spaces the hospital had in mind – the lobby, cafeteria and courtyard.
She put together a presentation of various artists who she thought could be good for the project. The presentation was then submitted to McLaren.
Entering the spacious main lobby under the stairs, visitors from outside and inside Brighton Hospital can see ‘Peace’ by Kelly O’Neill. The custom-made sculpture is made of powder-coated steel and glass. Daniels said the colors in the glass match the cool tones of McLaren’s company.
“I knew she had both the interest and the ability to create an individual piece,” Daniels said of O’Neill. “She works in mixed media, where she is a welder and a sculptor, incorporating glass and other objects into her work.”
After O’Neill was accepted as the artist for the project, she and Daniels made a site visit. They met with the designers in person to discuss the vision for O’Neill’s piece. The sculpture is under the main staircase and also behind a window, so O’Neill considered the many perspectives her piece would have.
“Sunset Over the Big Lake” in the cafeteria was painted by Mark Mehaffey. A resident of the Empire, much of his art reflects life in the far north. For this space, Daniels said she wanted something “beautiful and calming” that cafeteria-goers would appreciate while they’re grabbing a bite or taking a moment to themselves. Daniels found Mehaffey’s acrylic canvas to do just that.
“He has the most beautiful way of capturing northern Michigan sunsets and landscapes, which I think many of us in this area have very fond memories of,” Daniels said.
The third curated piece is a sculpture in the hospital courtyard entitled “Flyers”. Williamston’s Mark Chatterley had already made the ceramic sculpture, but Daniels felt it would fit perfectly in the courtyard. Chatterley’s sculpture was the first to be selected by the McLaren Foundation. The sculpture depicts three humanoid figures flying in the same direction.
“We have a wealth of research that helps people understand data about the value of art in people’s lives,” Whitney said. “It has the ability to offer patients a moment of calm, lift their spirits and literally help them heal. We are honored to have the opportunity to bring Michigan art to this space.”
Whitney added that the partnership between the McLaren Foundation and the art gallery allowed Michigan artists to share their passion while contributing to a “beautiful shift in healing and well-being” for hospital patients and visitors.
The two roles of Lynn Griffor came together while collecting artwork for the hospital. She is the hospital’s chief experience officer and vice president of the foundation.
“The overall design of this facility is to bring some peace and quiet to people in what are usually quite stressful situations,” Griffor said. “You walk in here and there’s a certain level of stress from the start. We wanted the physical space to bring some peace and comfort to the people who are here.”
Griffor said she feels good about the hospital’s leadership’s commitment to the arts. With the foundation, which she described as the hospital’s philanthropic arm, Griffor raised the funds used to purchase the art from the gallery. She said the foundation provided $10 million for the new hospital campus.
Aside from what the art gallery curated, the foundation independently selected other artworks for the hospital. Two works by DeWitt artist Jason Keusch can be found in the main lobby – one in the elevator lobby aptly titled “This Way to the Elevator”. Two acrylic works by Pam Harden, a resident of East Lansing, reside at the Ambulatory Care Center.
Griffor said nature is a common theme for many other artworks throughout the hospital, particularly the vibrant green wall in the cancer center’s atrium. The wall extends over several floors and consists of various grasses and mosses.
“We wanted to bring the outside in,” Griffor said. “While people are here within these walls, they don’t want to feel like they’re in a clinical, sterile environment.”
Daniels was similar, adding that hospitals are “inherently sterile.” She said McLaren did a great job of making the space “calming and warm”.
“Bringing art and nature together in a way that it has done so far has really provided people with opportunities to reflect and have moments of stillness and maybe even moments of enjoyment,” Daniels said.