Art expands health education in Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall
When Grand Valley State University constructs a new building, artwork from the university’s permanent collection of more than 16,000 works is selected to tell visual stories that help connect students to curricula.
The more than 280 works of art found in Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, Grand Valley’s newest health building located on the Medical Mile in Grand Rapids, were chosen by Grand Valley’s Art Gallery staff and members of an Art Advisory Committee. The committee consisted of representatives from the Office of the President, Facilities Planning, College of Health Professions, Kirkhof College of Nursing and Office of the Vice Provost for Health.
Nathan Kemler, Art Gallery assistant director, said the artwork in the 84,000-square-foot health building tells stories of community connections and the importance of health professionals in West Michigan and around the world.
“We want the art to encourage civic dialogue, foster creative and critical thought, and provide avenues for personal reflection," he said.
The artwork installed across from the cardiovascular sciences and sonography labs on the lower level of Finkelstein Hall, for example, provides a conceptual interpretation of medical ultrasound and cardiovascular imagery. The images were gifted to the university by The Museum Project — a project established by a group of professional photographers who donate art to the permanent collections of various museums and institutions.
The Art Advisory Committee purposefully requested works produced by local artists for the first floor of Finkelstein Hall because the floor has expansive street-level views out into the surrounding Belknap neighborhood. In addition to contemporary local artists, photographs by Raleigh Finkelstein’s late uncle, Peter Fink, are also showcased.
The second level of Finkelstein Hall includes public health research labs and occupational therapy seminar rooms. Art Gallery staff members plan to work with faculty to integrate art into their course syllabi and facilitate sessions of research-based methods that will aid in the development of observation and empathy — two critical skills for occupational therapy and public health students.
“Art Advisory Committee members really wanted to make sure that the art in the Public Health space talked about health-related community issues and what their students may face in their future jobs,” said Alison Christensen, Art Gallery project manager. “The art brings up topics, like homelessness, that may be uncomfortable, but it’s a good learning experience for people to be able to take the time to digest that type of imagery.”
Additionally, art on the second level showcases works that depict medical patients with varying conditions and works of art created by medical patients. For example, two images produced by California-based artist Ted Meyer focus on a patient who suffered from stage four brain cancer. Meyer photographed the patient after rolling ink on her head where a scar remained from surgery, and then made a print by pressing paper onto the patient's scar.
Unique to the third floor of Finkelstein Hall are works of art that were intentionally selected to create a child-friendly atmosphere because of the child observation labs and speech language pathology and audiology programs located on this level.
“The Art Advisory Committee wanted to make sure that we had works of art on this level that were not only kid-friendly, but also were created by children,” said Christensen.
As a result, some of the pieces of art were created by students at Coit Creative Academy in Grand Rapids. All proceeds from Grand Valley’s purchase of the artwork for the university's permanent collection were donated back to the academy to purchase classroom supplies.
The third floor also features drawings by children attending the Flint Linden Charter School — a Grand Valley authorized charter school — that were produced for a previous collaborative exhibit. For the exhibit, “Young Flint Speaks: Flint Lives Matter,” students were asked to illustrate how they felt about the Flint water crisis. Works of art from the exhibition are now a part of Grand Valley’s permanent collection.
To complement the view of the Belknap neighborhood on the fourth floor, the Art Gallery team installed archival images of the neighborhood, showcasing how it has developed over the years in Grand Rapids. The images were donated to Grand Valley by the Grand Rapids City Archives and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
“The images are important because they represent community members working together through various stages of development, as well as representing how GVSU would like to be a part of the Belknap neighborhood’s growing future,” said Christensen.
Information about all of the artwork located in Finkelstein Hall can be found in the Art Gallery's online collection or by visiting gvsu.edu/artgallery/finkelsteinhall. For more information, contact Alison Christensen at (616) 331-8051.