USC Verdugo Hills Hospital relies on medical skills as it goes about the business of healing, of course, but it also acknowledges the power of art in pushing the process along. Hence, the hospital’s Healing Arts Exhibition.
Now on its fifth art exhibition, the hospital held an opening reception featuring colorful illustrations by Gayle Garner Roski and iPhone art by Kitty Keck for a permanent display in the hospital near La Cañada Flintridge.
“Like the other editions, this is similar but what it does is it allows us to bring the healing aspect of art into the hospital,” said hospital CEO Keith Hobbs. “And it allows us to bring community members that don’t necessarily need care into the hospital to be able to share in the art we have.”
Hobbs, Roski and Keck spoke on Sunday at the hospital to a large crowd gathered inside Council Rooms A/B for the reception.
Earlier, Roski said in a telephone interview that the hospital had asked for help in getting the exhibition going and she mentioned she had illustrated the repairing of people’s knees by Operation Walk in Guatemala. The nonprofit, now known as Operation Walk Los Angeles, has performed more than 12,000 surgeries in more than 12 countries and has numerous chapters. Roski was used to taking photographs and creating paintings, but the Guatemala project was something new.
“Going to Guatemala wasn’t unusual for me, but I had never documented medicine,” Roski said. “That was my goal. After I’d done that I showed Dr. [Lawrence] Dorr” — Operation Walk’s founder — “and he said, ‘Let’s do a book.’ We did a book.
“That’s the book on exhibit there,” Roski added, referencing a copy of “The Crooked Man, His Doctor and His Angel,” which describes a life-changing operation on a Guatemalan man, Rogelio Estrada. “It was such a magical thing.”
Dr. Paul Gilbert, medical director of orthopedic surgical services at the Glendale hospital, is a La Cañada Flintridge resident featured in Roski’s book for assisting in the procedure with Dorr. Gilbert told The Outlook that the healing arts program was important.
“The healing arts program here has really amazed me in regards to the direct effect on the patients,” Gilbert said. “I do hip and knee replacements and Julie [Shadpa], who’s our art therapist, will come and see the patients post op. And there’s a lot of reluctance to participate. But when they do, they love it. We’ve gotten letters back from patients saying how much it meant to them, how it decreased their pain, how it enhanced their recovery. Anything you can do to reduce pain without taking a narcotic makes a big difference.”
The first hospital Healing Arts Exhibition was held in August 2017 with artist Vincent Takas. Sue Wilder, chair of the Healing Arts Foundation as well as USC-VHH’s Healing Arts Committee, said the program was conceived in September 2016 when the Keck School of Medicine of USC wanted to get art into all three of its hospitals.
“It’s been proven art can enhance patients’ recovery and pain levels change,” Wilder said.
She said she proposed having community artists from the LCF and Glendale areas in the first master meeting. Through various meetings and talking to different artists, it was determined there was an interest in local artists exhibiting their work. Next, Wilder said, was trying to find appropriate art for the exhibit.
“The issue you run into with that is people will donate and that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to display in a hospital or in a setting with patients,” Wilder said. “We formed an art committee at Verdugo with people from the hospital, but mostly art-savvy people or people with an interest in art. When we bring people in, the committee makes the decision. The healing art is very specified in that you want it to be calming. You don’t want it to be scary. You want it to have a warm, fuzzy feeling to it.”
Keck, whose art in shown in other hospitals as well — she specializes in striking photographs taken on her iPhone and then enlarged — said she believed in the power of the healing arts program.
“It’s really amazing to see the patients and visitors who come … how they stop and look,” Keck said. “It really does distract them for ever so briefly.”
Artist Marijane Hebert, who lives in LCF, previously showed her work in the exhibition, and her art is currently being displayed in a breast cancer center at the hospital. She echoed Keck’s thoughts.
“I just think this is amazing what they’ve put in here,” Hebert said on Sunday about the exhibition. “I’ve had emails from patients saying that when they got bad news and they looked up and saw one of my paintings, they were so relieved and knew that everything was going to be OK. You get emails and phone calls from patients you don’t even know. I’ve had tremendous response from patients.”