Lowcountry artists gathered recently at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and the Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion in advance of the hospital opening, to preview their art hanging in lobbies, patient and exam rooms and along hospital corridors.
A dedicated group of staff and others worked for more than two years to define the scope of the interior decor that would befit each of the 11 floors and select the art and artists whose work would appear throughout the facility. The project was developed and guided by Carolyn BaRoss and Aiko Tanabe, interior designers with Perkins & Will. Locally, the art program was coordinated by hospital art curator Roberta Sokolitz and MUSC Arts in Healing Art Collections Coordinator Britt Bates.
Committee member and volunteer family advisor Kelly Loyd said the group had two primary thoughts when selecting artists – whimsy and delight. It was not an easy task as artwork needed to fit with the various Lowcountry themes on each floor, and it also needed to appeal to a broad mix of ages of young children to teens as well as expectant mothers who would give birth in the new fourth floor Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion.
More than 30 local and regional artists were selected along with a number of community members, including school children, to contribute to the art collection. Much of the artwork submitted by school children from Title 1 schools and patients can be found in the Emergency Department. Their work is themed around superheroes and contains messages of encouragement.
Currently more than 300 pieces of art can be found in the hospital. According to Britt Bates, additional pieces will be added in the future.
Artists expressed pride and joy at seeing their artwork hung in the children’s hospital. Several talked in detail about their pieces including Charleston locals John Duckworth, whose landscape abstracts feature the essence of the Lowcountry, Roxanne Raven, whose work welcomes expectant mothers as they take the “stork elevator” to the women’s pavilion or the MUSC Advanced Fetal Care Center (AFCC) and Corey Brown, who used his camera to capture the smiles of patients.
John Duckworth, Landscape Abstracts
Duckworth, who grew up in California, moved to the Charleston in 1994.
“As an avid outdoorsman and photographer, I decided to begin taking my camera with me on bicycle rides to find secluded marsh locations and study the landscape,” he said. “It did not take long for pluff mud, marsh grass, rivers and creeks to work their magic on me. I was hooked, mesmerized by the subtle shifts of color and hue, not only through the year but over the course of a day, or an hour.”
Using his camera to capture the Lowcountry images, he says the process is more painterly than photographic. He uses a gestural movement across the horizon to create an impression of the landscape.
His primary landscape in the hospital, and clearly one of the most dramatic pieces, can be found on the ground floor at the entrance to the children’s hospital. The large landscape is 26 feet wide by 23 feet tall, and is along the main stairwell divided into 12 glass panels at 12 feet tall. The hazy colors of blue and green capture the marsh and allow people on the ground floor to see the greens of the marsh and individuals on the first floor to see the comforting hues of the sky.
Asked what it meant to have his work in the children’s hospital, he said, “Having a child of my own, I can only imagine how much anxiety, fear and stress that comes with bringing a child into a children’s hospital, for both parents and child, so being asked to help create a soothing, calming atmosphere and tone as the initial impression for those who enter the main lobby is a significant honor and privilege for which I am forever grateful.”
Raven Roxanne, Abstract and Impressionist Painter
Roxanne, who grew up on the Gulf Coast, can be found at Slate Studios in the Cigar Factory in Charleston. In her own words, “My artistic practice is a response to the colors, energies, textures and composition of my life. I have created a lifestyle surrounding my work, thriving on the strength of women, the beauty of imperfection, and the harmony of mental and physical well-being of the figure. Through my work, I hope to invoke a connection for my viewers while representing the truest version of myself.”
Fittingly, her three “stork” paintings can be found at the entrance to the Stork Elevator on the ground and first floors of the children’s hospital. The dedicated “stork” elevator at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, transports expectant mothers from the hospital’s entrance directly to the first-floor AFCC or fourth-floor Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion.
Roxanne said the paintings were inspired by the morning light hitting the marsh and how the earth has a glow about it and how it makes you feel warm and at peace. She wanted the storks to represent a family dancing in the morning light. She said the paintings were a joy to make, and while painting, she thought a lot about family and how family can be messy and beautiful.
“I feel abundantly grateful to have my paintings in the new children’s hospital and women’s pavilion,” she said. “The idea of my work living amongst the worry, joy, fear, and celebration that happens in the hospital and that these pieces offer a place for people to break their gaze and drift for just a minute is a gift I will be forever grateful for.”
Corey Brown, photographer, Tumbleston Photography Studios
Brown likes photographing children, which may seem unusual for this Florida State University graduate of psychology and criminology. He learned the art of photography after meeting his wife, whose father Charlie Tumbleston started the studio more than 40 years ago.
Taking photos of children can be difficult since as Brown says, “They rarely stay still, and they are young, so getting them to do exactly what you want can be challenging. They can be shy, emotional, or basically loose cannons. However, there is nothing sweeter or more innocent than catching a genuine smile, laugh, or expressions. It makes running around and chasing them worth it.”
One of his secrets is to interact with them and get their attention. He makes faces, noises and uses props like squeaky toys or whatever it takes to capture the candid photo.
Brown has 12 to 15 photos of patients, and they are located on the seventh floor.
“I love the photography in the new hospital,” he said. “When I saw the prints hanging there I got a little emotional. These kids hold a special place in my heart. One of the highlights of my year is when we come to the hospital in December and we photograph Santa going around and visiting the children. These children would rather be home with their family and friends but the staff at the hospital does a fantastic job at making the kids feel comfortable in their home away from home.”
As the artists gathered to see the locations of their own work, they clearly enjoyed seeing the artwork of other artists too. Behind each piece of art is a story of compassion and clear joy at having the opportunity to lighten the load of everyone who passes through the doors of MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and the Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion.