Finding Healing and Inspiration through Art

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Katherine Ace, Curves of Juliet, 2012Katherine Ace, Love Letter, 2004Rick Bartow, Blue Jay 2, 2008Marlene Bauer, Sway, 1995Hildur Bjarnadóttir, Untitled (Notebook Paper)Rebeca Bollinger, Index, 2001
Rebeca Bollinger, Drive, 2001Sharon Bronzan, Waiting, 1999Carolyn Cole, Red (81003), 2010Baba Wagué Diakité, The Fishermen and the Helpers, 2013Shirley Gittelsohn, Triptych, 1974Cie Goulet, Yamhill Fields, 1992
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The Healing Through Art Collection consists of 58 pieces of artwork from 35 artists. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.

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On any given day, Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center is filled with surprises. An unexpected success story. Laughter following a particularly difficult counseling session.  

And art. Beautiful, high-quality, inspiring art from some of the most renowned artists in the Pacific Northwest, including the likes of Carolyn Cole, William Park, Laura Ross-Paul, Baba Wagué Diakité, and Betty LaDuke. 

Understandably, a community health clinic that serves vulnerable populations—people sleeping outside, enduring debilitating physical or mental health crises, and living with little or no stability—might be the last place you would expect a fine art collection. But thanks to the ongoing efforts of an all-volunteer group known as the Art Task Force, CCC’s downtown healthcare campus is now home to a curated collection—58 individual pieces from 35 different artists—that hundreds of patients can see each day.

The idea to bring inspiring artwork to Central City Concern facilities was hatched years ago by then-Director of Public Affairs, Carole Romm. Slowly, artwork found its way into several Central City Concern housing sites, a small preview of things to come.

Soon thereafter, Carole and others learned about the benefits of artwork in healthcare settings. A well-known study by Roger S. Ulrich, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist who conducts research on the effects of healthcare facilities on medical outcomes, supports the idea that patients with access to views of art, nature, and other inspiring visual images are less stressed and anxious, and more hopeful and optimistic about treatment options. Subsequent studies and reviews have come to similar conclusions.

With the knowledge that art could aid in healing, and the belief that the people Central City Concern serves deserve access to exceptional art as much as anyone else, a small but passionate team of volunteers was assembled with the goal of procuring donations of artwork created by some of the Pacific Northwest’s best artists. As they got to work, artists, galleries, and collectors donated pieces, while others provided cash donations to purchase art.

Each piece of procured artwork was reviewed by Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Art Curator, who volunteered her time to ensure that this collection would be of the utmost quality and reputation. Further, a panel of Central City Concern patients and health services staff members reviewed each piece before it was accepted into the collection.

As a whole, the Healing Through Art Collection complements the unique healing model developed by Central City Concern, as well as SERA Architect’s award-winning design of the two adjacent clinics. The collection has become a shared community asset that enriches the lives of the patients we serve, the staff members who provide compassionate care, and the many visitors we host each year.

And while it may not be a surprise anymore when patients and visitors comment on the artwork around Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center, it remains thrilling to know that art has the power to elicit feelings of hope, calm, and healing.

You can learn more about each of the artists and their pieces by downloading the Healing Through Art booklet, which includes information about the artists and artist statements.

Past and current members of the Art Task Force include:

  • Pam Baker
  • Jeanine Jablonski
  • Carole Romm
  • Marcy Schwartz
  • Bing Sheldon
  • Kathleen Stephenson-Kuhn
  • Kate Wagle
  • Dedee Wilner-Nugent
  • Dan Winter
  • Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson (Curatorial Advisor)