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Burlington County Times: Healing arts

Editor’s Note: The following article originally ran in the Burlington County Times on November 17, 2013.

Burlington County Times: Healing arts

By Kristen Coppock Staff writer

Burlington City artist Sandra L. Jones painted a snow-covered forest scene with ample sunlight to warm the senses.

Joyce Harris Mayer of Medford created a serene image of a lake with flowering plants and wading ducks.

The colorful abstract Family Tree created by Barbara March, an Evesham artist, is intended to inspire feelings of well-being and happiness.

Works of art on display at the new MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper were selected with the purpose of fostering positive emotions in patients undergoing medical treatment and their families. Part of the Cooper University Health Care system in Camden, the cancer facility held its grand opening on Oct. 7.

The center has incorporated into its public and administrative spaces more than 100 pieces of art created by 71 New Jersey artists. The works represent a range of mediums, such as watercolors, oil on canvas, acrylic on wood and photography, as well as a variety of subject matters, including landscapes, still life and abstracts.

The purpose of each work, however, is the same: To inspire and enlighten visitors as part of the healing process.

March’s piece hangs in a laboratory, and complements the two-story Tree of Life on display in the center’s main lobby. The multi-media artwork is composed of acrylic boxes that are backlit by translucent panels. Colored LED lights continually change.

“This building is so alive, and cancer patients need that,” said March.

Studies have shown that a patient’s experience and medical outcome can be positively impacted by the healing power of the arts, according to the center’s director, Dr. Generosa Grana, and Susan Bass Levin, president and CEO of the Cooper Foundation.

“Art has been documented to aid in stress reduction and calming the patient, reducing pain and positively contributing to the overall well-being of the patients,” Grana said.

According to Levin, a cancer survivor, the artwork chosen to adorn the facility had to promote positive feelings, such as cheerfulness, or present an inspiring message.

Three of the pieces in the collection were created by Asbury Park artist Laura Petrovich-Cheney, who repurposed wooden debris collected after Superstorm Sandy for her works.

“Creating symmetrical abstract patterns is my way of dealing with life’s ambiguities and uncertainties,” said the Haddonfield native. “In a way, we all suffer like discarded wood at some point in our lives, but through love and kindness, we recover.”

Some of the artists previously were known for their work and approached with the notion of contributing to the center’s collection. Some have connections to Cooper or a personal interest in helping cancer patients.

As a child, March lost her father to cancer.

Her daughter is a cancer survivor. Her mixed water media work honors them.

The mother of Beverly Golembeski, a contributing artist from Seaside Park, was treated at Cooper for breast cancer years ago. Golembeski’s contribution is a painting of yellow and orange roses.

“To have my artwork land on the walls of the new cancer center is a tribute to her, as well as to the city where I spent my childhood,” said Golembeski in a written statement.

Jones said, as a patient, she often is disappointed in the artwork she sees in other medical facilities. She was honored to be included in a collection meant to bring happiness.

“It can take your mind off of your troubles,” she said.

According to Levin, only New Jersey artists were considered for the collection. Those who contributed reside throughout the state with the majority hailing from South Jersey.

“This building is a symbol of hope for all of New Jersey and selecting artists with ties to our state was a perfect fit to complete this symbolism,” she said. “We’re happy to have patients from Philadelphia and New York, but New Jersey is our home.”

Jones used watercolor paint and water soluble crayons to create her work, “Winter Still.” The snowy scene that hangs in a conference room is her interpretation of a photograph, whose image of a stream and barren trees was captured at her parents’ former home in Bucks County, Pa.

“I get influenced by other artists and things that I see,” she said.

Other featured artists representing Burlington County are Medford Lakes resident Diane S. Grimes and the late Alice Steer Wilson, formerly of Moorestown.
Grimes’ oil painting depicts the Long Beach Island marshland. She lost her brother-in-law to cancer this year.
Wilson, who passed away in 2001 after a battle with breast cancer, had three of her paintings selected for the center’s collection.

Also contributing to the building’s visual collection is Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown. The center collaborated with Cooper to produce a series of 8-foot-by-8-foot canvas paintings, which are displayed in a second-floor patient waiting area.

“Each one is different. They’re very special,” said Levin. “We want this building to be a special place, not just a medical building.”

The collaborative paintings were created by 22 South Jersey artists, including a dozen Burlington County residents.

They include Shirlene Abrams of Maple Shade, Nancy L. Harty and Carol Kontos-Cohen of Medford, Helene Lilholt and Myra Ryan of Riverton, Debbie Pey of Bordentown Township, Joy Hoffman and Charlie Snell of Moorestown, Jan Terry of Pemberton Township and Mount Laurel artists Angela Nocera, Debbie Pasquale and Donna Sensor Thomas.