“We know all too well the necessity for efficient management, but there is a spiritual as well as material aspect in the care of sick people.” -William J. Mayo, M.D.
Well, I know life is reaching a new height of busy when I look back on the year and realize I never posted about exciting projects that wrapped up months ago. Amidst working on the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital project earlier this year, I also was hard at work on another commission, an art glass wall for the new state-of-the-art J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Simulation Center at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. This piece, which I’ve titled “Shimmera,” is a permanent feature of the Weaver Center’s lobby. Backlit and reminiscent of stacked glass, each kilncast bar is handcrafted and approximately 2.5”h x 3’w. The overall dimensions of the wall are 8’-6’h x 3’w. The work’s three divisions allude to the Mayo Clinic’s “Three Pillars of Excellence” – Research, Education, and Care.
The “Sim Center” is a facility for training, rather than direct healing, though it is situated within the Mayo Clinic Hospital campus. I was fascinated to learn that they have operating rooms fitted out with simulation “dolls,” which have sophisticated human features like heartbeats, breathing, etc. that can be controlled by a technician behind a mirror. These dolls can simulate many of the same health problems that humans face and likewise can be “treated” accordingly. One of the technicians explained to me that, in a training, they might have up to 20 trainees, doctors, nurses, and other staff replicating what actually happens in an operating room. The process is so much more choreographed than I realized, but I suppose that makes sense, as they have to be able to perform emergency maneuvers without tripping over one another! Some participants even act as “plants,” wearing earbuds into which the hidden technician, observing the event, can feed lines, influencing the unfolding action. Sadly, just like in real life, the simulation dolls do sometimes “die” on the team. I asked my contact if it’s really so realistic working on a plastic patient, and he said that it absolutely is — students can get really caught up and become quite emotional if they “lose” the patient.
Since its inception, the Mayo Clinic has recognized the role of art, architecture, and beautiful environments in healing. Working with the Weaver Center team, I was impressed to observe first-hand how this philosophy extends to their training facilities through the commission of this work. Alongside state-of-the-art equipment and resources like those astounding simulation dolls, they value art as a vital part of the training environment, offering inspiration, encouragement, and rejuvenation amidst other benefits.
I’ve been heartened to see this philosophy echoed by several other healthcare facilities at which I’ve created work in recent years. As an artist, I enjoy creating for all kinds of settings, including those in which the work is simply meant to provide nice atmosphere; but it is profoundly edifying to create for spaces in which art is understood as an integral part of human health.