Virtual Mentor. August 2014, Volume 16, Number 8: 618-621.
Creating a Space for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
A description of the Fulginiti Pavilion and the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Therese Jones, PhD
Building an arts and humanities program at a health sciences campus doesn’t usually involve an actual building. When I joined the faculty at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2009, there were two projects under construction. The first was my responsibility—the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program. The second was the physical space that would house it and the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. While those of us engaged in the development and implementation of academic programs approach our work as largely conceptual—despite seeing our efforts actualized when students come into our classrooms or when journals publish our scholarship—this project would be literally concretized with steel, glass, drywall, and paint. Thus, the stated mission of the program reflects both aspiration and actualization: to provide a unique facility and a comprehensive network in order to develop and integrate transformational learning, groundbreaking scholarship, and exceptional artwork within the environments of health care education, research, and practice.
In fact, where the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program lives is as critical to its work as what the program does. It is both a physical space—with a dedicated and secure art gallery, an in-the-round auditorium with four screens for presentations and films and a concert grand piano gracing the foyer—and a place to exchange ideas, inspire collaboration, foster compassion, fuel imagination, and transcend boundaries. It is here in the Fulginiti Pavilion for Ethics and Humanities that the program realizes the universal power of the arts and humanities to connect student and teacher, patient and professional, citizen and artist, benefactor and institution. One local art and architecture critic described the facility as “a space for reflection …[whose] impact is immediate, both tactically and emotionally…. It breathes and also provides breathing space, a rhythm, for the overall campus” . Within this special environment, the day-to-day work of the program encompasses education, inquiry, expression, and engagement.
The education program focuses on three areas:
The program contributes to scholarship and research:
Expression and Engagement
The program supports community outreach through the arts with:
Just as the sciences require special facilities to support human discovery, so also must the arts have distinctive spaces to celebrate human imagination, and the gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion is dedicated to bridging the cultural divide between science and art to explore the most essential questions about human experience: who we are and how do we care for one another? To ensure that the arts are incorporated into student education, clinical practice, and the daily life of our community, the gallery provides a secure venue for curated exhibitions of painting and photography and multimedia installations.
Since its opening in September 2012, we have mounted seven major exhibits for approximately 16,000 visitors, including Four Questions, created by Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman. Mounted on large, accordion-style panels, the work poses ethical questions related to the atrocities of the Holocaust raised by contemporary science and medicine. Tattoo Nation, a photographic exhibit and documentary film by Eric Schwartz, had special appeal to visitors with its portraits of bodies inscribed with designs that affirm group identity, proclaim religious beliefs, or present a pictorial autobiography on the geography of the skin. Our most recent exhibit in the gallery is The Joe Bonham Project: Drawing the Stories of America’s Wounded Veterans . Joe Bonham is the central character in Dalton Trumbo’s 1938 novel, Johnny Got His Gun. Horribly wounded in combat, he wants to tour the country in a glass box as a living example of the realities of war, but that hope is never realized, and Joe lives out his days—alone and forgotten. In February 2011, a group of artists began documenting the experiences of service members and their families undergoing medical treatment in trauma wards and rehabilitation centers for devastating injuries, so that a new generation of “Joe Bonhams” would not be forgotten. The exhibit not only includes the visual representations of wounded warriors but also their life stories, bearing witness to the grueling journeys of American veterans who have survived the harrowing terrors of combat but have not come out “intact.”
These exhibits bring artists to campus for public presentations and classroom discussions and provide opportunities for related programming such as panel presentations, film screenings, and faculty lectures. Moreover, our students have the opportunity to exhibit their own art, such as one senior medical student’s mixed media work illustrating her longitudinal research project on the social, personal, and medical challenges of persons with mental illness in our city, or another student’s piano and vocal performance as part of his research project on musical compositions as illness narratives by artists with serious mental illness.
Whether it is integrating content into curricula, collaborating across disciplines, or creating opportunities for expression and engagement, the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program works creatively and energetically to build community and to transform the culture of academic medicine with and from a unique and beautiful building.
Therese Jones, PhD, is director of the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program, associate director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. She is editor of the Journal of Medical Humanities and lead editor of the first major textbook in the health humanities, to be published by Rutgers Press in August 2014. She has published and presented extensively on HIV/AIDS and the arts; literature, film, and medicine; and medical education.
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