Illuminated Symbols

Excellence inspires imagination: students visually interpret a hospital core value

June 4, 2005

A cross, a flower, a St. Bernard, a basketball.

Black boxes frame these and other inspirational images in a new art installation at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital.

Westside Elementary students are the creative minds behind the three black boxes in the hospital cafeteria.

On May 24, the hospital unveiled its newest art acquisition. The black boxes display images of excellence, as seen and described by the Westside students.

An owl, an eagle, a book, a spider and its web, a child gazing at the heavens, and symbols and words in Chinese, Spanish, Braille, and Chinookan.

“I chose Braille for Excellence,” wrote Tyler Baskins, “because Louis Braille helped make it easier for the blind to read. The symbol shows respect and caring.”

Cut-out symbols, illuminated from behind, hang on the walls. The students visited the hospital and then created images to communicate Excellence, one of the core values of the hospital.

A crown, the Statue of Liberty, an electrical symbol, a horse, a butterfly.

“A medal,” wrote Cole Hunter, “represents excellence because you need determination and greatness. You also need to do your best to succeed. When you win a medal it shows you have been striving to win.”

Every year Gary Young, director of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care, commissions a piece of public art for the hospital to be created by a fifth grade class in Hood River County. Each year a core value of the hospital is picked as the theme. Young asks Columbia Gorge Arts in Education to chose an artist to collaborate with students.

This year’s artist was Suzanne Lee from Portland. Young and and Lee took the kids on a tour of the hospital and asked the staff they met if they had any heroes. The kids had to write about their own heroes then draw images that reflected their interpretation of excellence. The word Excellence is written on each box in different languages including, Spanish, Japanese and Chinookan. There is a book of the students drawings and writings to accompany the artworks. (The book is available in the hospital lobby, along with similar books describing past projects such as stained glass pieces and stairway murals that depict the emotions and tasks of individual hospital employees.)

Lee then worked with metal workers and laser cutters to produce three metal pieces that look like inverted shadow boxes. On each box are the symbols designed by each student, cut out of the metal surface and lit from behind. “The result is three very sophisticated, intriguing pieces of art,” said Leith Gaines of Arts in Education.

Present at the opening were the participating students and their families and teachers, Lee and Young, Westside principal Terri Vann and hospital board members, and the hospital staff who worked diligently to paint walls and put in electrical sources needed to create the finished product.

“It was a true collaborative effort that has resulted in impressive public artwork by a group of talented children,” Gaines said.

She thanked Young and Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital for their ongoing support of emerging artists in the community. — Compiled by Kirby Neumann-Rea

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