Healing through art

Mercy's new Breast Care Center collection features 20 artists

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	An original painted glass chandelier by New York artist Ulla Darni adorns the lobby of the new Breast Care Center at Mercy Regional Medical Center. An artificial waterfall feature is in the background.</p> Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald photos

An original painted glass chandelier by New York artist Ulla Darni adorns the lobby of the new Breast Care Center at Mercy Regional Medical Center. An artificial waterfall feature is in the background.

There's more to the new Breast Care Center at Mercy Regional Medical Center than state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment equipment. The facility, which will welcome its first patients today, is home to an eclectic collection of artwork by 20 local, national and international artists. But this isn't your everyday, run-of-the-mill doctor's office art.

"It's so life-uplifting, and that's what we wanted," said Nancy Hoyt, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Mercy, who also served on the center's aesthetics committee that selected the artwork.

"Our vision for this center is that it wouldn't be just a medical facility. It's not a place to come get cancer; it's a place to celebrate being a woman," Hoyt said. "The package is everything from the music to the colors to the gowns, and it's very soothing." Upon entering the center, guests and patients are welcomed by a subdued but eye-catching mix that would do any gallery proud. The lobby houses paintings by Oklahoma Comanche artist Nocona Burgess and Durango's Dave Sime, Karyn Gabaldon, Jenny Gummersall and Cynthia DeBolt, as well as a sandstone fireplace surrounded by comfortable chairs and a wall-mounted waterfall.

There's also an almost whimsical painting of a bicycle by Wendeline Matson of Tulsa, Okla. (which was a favorite of Lance Armstrong on his recent visit), a powerful but upbeat sculpture by Israeli artist Ana Lazovsky, and exquisite, brightly colored, hand-blown glass lighting, including the room's centerpiece chandelier by New York artist Ulla Darni.

The committee selected the works from recommendations by Shanan Wells, owner of SCW Art Consulting. Wells drew on an extensive roster of artists and presented the committee with myriad options. There was no theme, as evidenced by the range of artists and art, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a vision.

"The idea was to create a comfortable space to put you at ease," Wells said. "We asked: 'How do we want the center to feel?' It's for women but not girlie, because it's also for families and friends. Understanding what you want to achieve at the end helps you begin." Gummersall, whose husband, Greg, also has a painting in the center, said being selected is an honor, both because of what the Breast Care Center means to the local community and because there was no call for artists' submissions; each was picked based on existing work.

"I think the space is just incredible for having to deal with that kind of an issue," Gummersall said.

"It's different dealing with consultants; they know what they want, and it's always interesting to see what they end up going for, which is the subjectivity of art. I didn't create a painting for this treatment center. It speaks to all the different patients and people, and the art is as individual as the people who will be using the space." Mercy's Breast Care Center is the result of the two-year "Yes Ma'am" campaign, which raised the $3.4 million needed to build it. The art collection, just like the high-tech equipment, was part of the total package.

The works selected were purchased by the committee and individuals and not donated directly by the artists. That allowed Wells and the committee to create the aesthetic feel from the ground up instead of molding the space to adhere to an existing collection.

The healing power of art is not lost on those who will work in the new center, either. The staff spent the days before the opening testing equipment and giving exams to hospital staff. Joanna Atencio and Anna Hofmann, radiology technicians who specialize in mammography, were among those in a nearly celebratory mood Wednesday anticipating their new and improved environment.

"The patients have been asking for this for years. It has more warmth that's personal, not clinical. And you don't even feel like you're at work. It's beautiful," Hofmann said.

Added Atencio: "This can be very traumatic, but they've made it very relaxing instead. We used to be in a closet off the surgery room. We've come a long way." ted@durangoherald.com

“It's so life-uplifting, and that's what
we wanted.”

—Nancy Hoyt, Mercy Regional Medical Center