When Janice Matthews was working in the emergency room at CHI Mercy Medical Center, her supervisor wanted everyone to be on one of the hospital committees. So she suggested an art committee.

“Because there wasn’t really any art in the hospital,” Matthews said. “We started small.”

Matthews came up with the idea for the Art for Healing program. Now when you travel through the halls at Mercy, you’ll see art in just about every space where it could possibly be displayed.

Matthews created an art committee and invited her friend Marjorie Feldman to join. Feldman is also an artist and the wife of retired cardiologist Howard Feldman.

The two women went to work securing art pieces locally. Before long, it became a popular place for artists to display their work. A few pieces have even come from outside the state. Some of the art is part of the hospital’s permanent collection but a lot are on loan from the artists.

“Most of it was either loaned or donated from friends and we tried to use a lot of local artists,” Feldman said.

When hospital administration saw the benefit that the art provides, some money was allocated to the committee to help it grow.

The women create themes and then look for art to follow the topic. The first one was “being a great human being,” then a bird theme, a river theme, animals and many others.

“There’s been a lot of research and discussion about how the arts can be a source of healing, so people coming through here have a visual reflection in a time of taking their minds off their illnesses and actually contributing to healing,” Feldman said. “They’re breathing, relaxing, it’s actually a physical response to the art, it’s healing.”

Feldman said she’s been impressed with the quality of the art pieces they have received.

“I think the quality is superb, I’m surprised that we’ve gotten so many excellent pieces,” she said.

One of the most pleasing things for the women is the response that they got from patients and employees at the hospital.

“It changes their outlook on their experience here, it definitely does, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that,” Matthews said.

Shellie Stefanich, marketing assistant in the Mercy Communications Department said the art display has definitely had a positive effect on people.

“We know that the hospital experience isn’t always great for people, so we like to have it so there is something nice to look at,” Stefanich said. “Many patients and visitors have commented on the beautiful artwork — and the employees too. We’ve had a lot of people come in and buy the ones that were on loan, we have a lot of really nice things on loan.”

Matthews and Feldman have been the art curators at the hospital for about six years now and are two of the three people on the hospital’s art committee. They continue to get calls from artists asking to have their work displayed.

It’s taken them some time to gather the collections, but when they hear the reaction from a patient, an employee or someone visiting a patient in the hospital, it makes the effort all worthwhile.

“We’re both artists and we love to do art, but when you get the response from other people, it makes you feel good for contributing,” Feldman said.

Both Matthews and Feldman have put a lot of time into the Art for Healing program and both have several pieces of their own art on display. Matthews comes in from Glide a few times a month to help out, and they do most of the hanging of the paintings.

“I spent a lot of time in the beginning, now I don’t come in as much," Matthews said.

Both are happy with how the project has developed.

“The hospital has been very supportive,” Feldman said. “We were even given some funds to purchase a piece of art from the Plein Air Art Show at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center.”

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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