The Picture of Health: Art Exhibits in Cancer Centers Help Patients and Families Heal

With growing evidence that they can help patients and their families heal, art installations and exhibits are becoming more prevalent in cancer centers.
BY MARILYN FENICHEL
PUBLISHED: AUGUST 24, 2016
“Wordfall,” at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is made from 80,000 cascading paperclips wrapped in the words of a young poet who died of cancer, Brendan Ogg.- PHOTO BY GREG STALEY
“Wordfall,” at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is made from 80,000 cascading paperclips wrapped in the words of a young poet who died of cancer, Brendan Ogg. - PHOTO BY GREG STALEY
When Alice Momm, art advisor for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York City, was asked to find a compelling piece of art for the Josie Robertson Surgery Center, MSK’s new outpatient facility that opened in January 2016, her first idea was a sculpture for the outdoor terrace. But when she found out that the art would be competing with a large sign announcing the name of the facility, she realized she would have to rethink that concept.

When looking for art for MSK, Momm often turns to gallery owner Susan Eley. This time, Eley suggested exploring the work of an artist she represents, Francie Hester, who is based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Checking out Hester’s website, Momm gravitated toward an installation consisting of strands of 40,000 paperclips falling from a curved rod, exhibited at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Chantilly, Virginia. Hester had produced the work with her artistic partner, Lisa Hill, with whom she often collaborates.

“On a visual level, the piece at Howard Hughes was welcoming, beautiful, intriguing, and it moved and changed with the light,” Momm explains. “I was thrilled when the design committee for the MSK facility commissioned a new version of the installation.” Larger than the Howard Hughes piece, the MSK installation, called Wordfall, is built from 80,000 paperclips that create strands cascading from the ceiling and almost reaching the floor.

“Wordfall is simple, clean and modern, and softened the feel of the space. It also creates a beautiful shadowing effect in the lobby,” Suzen Heeley, executive director of design and construction at MSK, recalls.
 

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