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Published on August 15, 2016

Beauty that can change your brain chemistry

Call it the art of healing.

Over the last few years, Cape Cod Healthcare has been building its visual arts collection to where it now numbers about 1,200 pieces, most of them donated or on loan from local artists. And the purpose is far more important than just decoration for the walls.

Visiting the emergency room with a sick child? The bold Alfred Glover sculpture in the Cape Cod Hospital emergency room waiting room. might be a distraction. Headed to radiology? Take a calming moment to enjoy Rick Fleury’s calming seascapes in the hospital’s main lobby. Have to spend a few days in Falmouth or Cape Cod hospital? Perhaps there will be a whimsical mermaid by Elizabeth Mumford near your bedside.

“It’s good for patients and staff,” says Melissa Woringer, the curator of CCHC’s art program, which places works in all CCHC facilities. Much of the work is for sale by the artists and information on each piece can be obtained at the information desk at Cape Cod Hospital.

Woringer, an art and design consultant, negotiates with artists and galleries, coordinates donations and loans, and sees that pieces are displayed properly in appropriate spots.

“We want to humanize the healthcare environment,” Woringer said. “If you can immediately be confronted by a work of art of something that’s familiar, … it really does change your brain chemistry.”

Here are six more things to know about CCHC’s visual art collection:

  1. There’s a plan. The goal is to create a soothing and calming environment for staff and visitors. “We don’t do any art that’s challenging, confrontational,” says Woringer. “We’re trying to give people something: calmness, serenity, distraction. It’s not an intellectual exercise.” The overall theme is the natural environment and the palate is that of Cape Cod – the blue of the sea, the green of the marsh, the beiges of the sand. Not very many pieces feature strong colors like red or black.
  1. Art does the body (and mind) good. Healthcare organizations around the world are using visual art to make their spaces more welcoming and soothing. Researchers say that images of nature, in particular, can lead to shorter hospital stays, increased pain tolerance and decreased anxiety. And patients aren’t the only ones who benefit. Staff do better in an art-rich environment, according to the Society for the Arts in Healthcare [pdf] and the National Endowment for the Arts. For example, one of the CCH oncology surgeons and his staff like to decompress near Chris Green’s seven large photos of Sandy Neck in the radiology hallway, Woringer said.
  1. There are practical considerations to hanging art in a healthcare facility. Most paintings are covered by plastic rather than glass, for example. Some pieces that look like original oils are actually glicee copies made by high-quality digital printers. On the sixth floor of the Mugar Tower at Cape Cod Hospital, small woodcuts by artist Ann Doyle are placed at intervals that nurses can use as landmarks for patients who might be working on mobility.
  1. Most of the artists are local. “My personal objective is to keep the money here on the Cape, not to mention that the pool we have to pick from is vast,” Woringer said. “It’s very much a networking experience for me.” She also has a working relationship with the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, which loans pieces from its vast collection. The late Wellfleet artist Roger Pontbriand’s oil on canvas of a bridge in Wellfleet is currently hanging on the fifth floor of the Mugar Tower at Cape Cod Hospital, for example.
  1. The collection benefits artists. Fleury first got involved with the art program when he was doing physical therapy through CCHC when it was located at Willy’s Gym in Orleans. He got so tired of the windowless basement area that he offered to hang some of his art that had rotated out of galleries. It was a hit with patients and staff. Now he has pieces in the Cape Cod Hospital lobby and ER waiting room, as well as prints in all 52 ER exam rooms. One patient told him the images were a meditative focus when he was hyperventilating during a health crisis and allowed doctors to save his life. “I’m truly proud to be in Cape Cod Hospital,” Fleury said. “It’s my home and I feel like I’m giving in my own way to our community in a way that I really didn’t expect.”
  1. Don’t see something you like? Just wait. There are new pieces arriving all the time, or some are changed around. And, there are three rotating galleries: one on the second floor of Cape Cod Hospital; another in the passageway leading from the Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center to the main Cape Cod Hospital reception area, and a third at the Cuda Women’s Health Center at the Wilkins Health Complex on Attuck’s Lane. So far, all the pieces displayed in the Cuda gallery have been by women artists from the Cape, Woringer said.

Learn more about the above featured photo and slideshow here:

  • Above Featured Image: These two panels called “Faith” and “Hope” are by North Eastham artist Rick Fleury He’s from North Eastham. Note how cleverly they had to be hung to make sure the curve of the shore exactly matches up.
  • “Lewis Bay Regatta.” This original oil hanging in the Cape Cod Hospital reception area was donated by local artist Sam Barber. Recognize anyone? That’s Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the red shirt.
  • The dramatic photos of Sandy Neck in the hallway leading to radiology are by Chris Green of Centerville and were printed here on Cape Cod by Bob Korn of Orleans. The photos are so detailed and realistic that one of the oncology surgeons and his nursing staff like to come here to decompress. Did you notice the photos are not spaced evenly? That’s because of girders in the walls.
  • “Dreamscape – Dark Night of the Moon” in the connector hall leading to the Mugar Building is by Elissa Melaragno of Duxbury. Made from shells and rocks, it looks as if it were just picked up from the beach. You’ll find her stylized triptych of Pocasset Marsh on the hospital’s fifth floor.
  • Sarah Holl, of Scargo Pottery in Dennis, has another take on ceramics hanging in the connector. Her relief tiles feature plants native to the Cape.
  • In the Lorusso conference room, “Sanctuary” by Barbara Wylan is an oil on canvas of a Cape marsh that’s on loan from the Cape Cape Museum of Art. There are several pieces throughout Cape Cod Healthcare on loan.
  • Also in the conference room hang “Stellar Cells” by Ohio artist Rod Sounik. These dozen glass “cells” are in blues and greens and hung so they are out of harm’s way when people are pouring coffee at the counter. There are also cells hanging in the nurse’s station in the intensive care unit.
  • “Sea Grass” by Robert Cipriani from the South Shore is a favorite for those who pass in and out of the cafeteria.
  • Also, look for the the untitled fused glass piece Yolanda Adra, a Los Angeles artist, in Mugar outside the cafeteria. It’s unusual to have a fused glass piece this large. Does it remind you a quilt?
  • Just outside the back door is the sculpture “See How She Schoons” by David Lewis of Osterville. This is a cast piece in coated stainless steel. The base is antique verde marble base that comes from one place in Vermont. Look at the “plinth” – the foot that holds up the sculpture. It morphs into the boat’s keel – or perhaps it resembles a whale’s fluke?
  • Art is placed throughout patient floors. As you step off the elevator on the fifth floor of Mugar, look for the oil on canvas, “Bridge over Marsh” by Roger Pontbriand. Could it be the Lieutenant Island Bridge in Wellfleet. This is another piece on loan from the Cape Cod Museum of Art.
  • Do you like the Cape’s iconic rosa rugosa? Also on Mugar’s fifth floor, look for the untitled seascape by Maria Consoli of Yarmouth Port. It was donated by the artist.
  • Elizabeth Mumford is a Hyannis Port artist known for her primitives. On Mugar’s fifth floor, look for a group of three: “Plant a Garden” “ Good Nurse,” and “Shelter a Friend.” Mumford likes to use sea-shanty style sayings in her artwork.
  • Jan Collins Selman’s “Searching for Shells” and “Preparing to Sail”. Artist’s proof. Again, rare to have figures but these are kids.
  • Map of Cape done with found pottery shards and other small items – many of them antique. No name of artist but donated and made by a patient’s daughter in gratitude of the care her mother had at the hospital. Look for the silver bird, it’s like a treasure hunt.
  • Mermaid series by Nancy Braginton-Smith. 5 mermaids and two black dogs – very Cape Cod!
  • And there is another rosa rugosa painting on Mugar’s fifth floor. Julia O’Malley-Keyes’s “Woodneck Beach Walk,” was also donated by the artist.
  • View of ‘”Sconset” by Karol B. Wyckoff, of Yarmouth. Iconic view of Nantucket with hydrangeas and shingle cottages.