Project Uplift brings local art to encourage Clark Memorial Health staff and patients

September 30, 2020

In April 2020, the newness of the COVID-19 virus and the shutdowns to try to stem its spread created a heightened sense of panic and worry, even though positive stories were still happening at Clark Memorial Health. “We were seeing great stories around patients surviving and the things we were doing to protect everyone,” says Ruth Schmidt, chief operating officer at Clark. Was there something that could be done to help focus on these positives and encourage the healthcare workers and patients?

Enter Dawn Spyker and the Jeffersonville Arts Commission. This small group of individuals affiliated with the City of Jeffersonville approves and cites new public art in the city. “The group is here to champion and support our creative culture and get the community involved as much as possible,” Dawn says.

Blocks of Love art
Artist Jennie DiBeneditto with her art piece “Blocks of Love”

The Commission was closely involved in the development of the NoCo (North of Court) Arts & Cultural District and NoCo Center, which houses nine artists’ studios and opened in early 2020. After having to cancel more than 50 events planned for the year because of the pandemic, Dawn says the Commission had to pivot. “Maybe we need to back up the bus and say, ‘What can we do here that speaks to what we’re dealing with right now and our place in history?’” she says.

Dawn and the Commission created a call to NoCo Arts Center artists to see if they had an interest in creating public art to be housed at Clark Memorial as a means to uplift the essential workers and patients there. Of the nine artists whose studios are housed at the NoCo Arts Center, seven are participating in what has come to be known as Project Uplift, which features three art pieces.

Blocks of Love

The first piece that has been installed at Clark Memorial is titled “Blocks of Love” and was created by Jennie DiBeneditto with assistance from her husband, Lukas, an engineer.

“Jennie reached out to the community and basically got little love notes to share with Clark,” Ruth says. “Not only does it jolt you with color, it gives a great sense of emotion around what the notes say.”

Two-directional poem
Sarah Young installs her poem.

The piece is made of wood and enameled panels fused to copper and is in a high-traffic area of the hospital right off the main foyer. Ruth says both patients and staff have commented on its brightness and beauty.

“I was excited about [Blocks of Love] because it used this enameling process that is the main thing I’m doing in my studio at the NoCo Arts Center, and it had the largest community aspect as well,” Jennie says.

A two-directional poem

A bi-directional 16-line poem is the second installation at Clark, which was created by Sarah Young and installed in late August 2020. It is located in the human resources hallway that is also the entrance for Behavioral Health. “As you walk down one way, it reads a certain message, and if you go the other way, it reads another way,” Ruth says. “It gives [staff] a positive start as they’re walking down this hallway. It was also intended to inspire Behavioral Health patients as they are walking through, giving them a sense of hope or transformation.”

Sarah meant for her poem to be meditative, and the colors became deliberate when she began talking to the printer. “No matter which way you read them, they gradually lead up to a warmer hue, and they taper back down to a calm blue-green color,” Sarah says. She says she intended for the center lines to be the most thought-provoking.

Mural art piece
Seven artists collaborated on this final art piece, shown here from opposite sides.

A 3D creation

The final piece of art, which was installed in late September, is a three-part collaborative piece among seven NoCo artists, with Malliccaaii Green serving as lead artist. “[This] piece has a three-dimensional quality to it. It’s what I consider a low-relief [and] sticks off the wall 3 to 4 inches,” Dawn says. “The idea for this one is really interesting. If you look at it from one direction, you see one image. If you go to the other side of the piece and look at it from a different direction, you see a completely different image.”

The team of artists for this piece sent a survey to Clark Memorial staff asking for their COVID-19 reflections and found inspiration in their responses. “After reviewing the responses, I was amazed that no matter what position the staff was in, from RN to maintenance, they all shared the same feelings,” Malliiccaaii says.

The Clark Memorial planning committee has been thrilled by not only the impetus behind Project Uplift but also about how much having beautiful art improves the feeling in the hospital building. In a year of anxious uncertainty, that encouragement is especially important.