Nearly 350 pieces of original art go into St. Mary’s addition

Pamela Blythe, above right, lead art designer for St. Mary’s Century Project, talks about one of the pieces.

ST. MARY’S HOSPITAL spokeswoman Samantha Moe points to her favorite piece of glass in a stained glass piece installed the reflection room near the hospital’s new entrance. It is titled “Healing Waters” by Brenda Belfield.

One of Mesa County’s largest permanent collections of art, if not the largest, resides in an unexpected place.

Nearly 350 pieces of art were purchased in the past year to display in patient rooms and on hall walls in St. Mary’s Hospital’s towering new addition that is expected to open in January. A few pieces also will be outside on hospital grounds.

Nearly all of the original and reproduced artwork was created by western Colorado artists.

“I’ve never seen a hospital with such a commitment to buy original art,” said Cheryl McNab, executive director of The Art Center, which has a permanent collection of less than 250 pieces.

Perhaps only one other local medical facility, Primary Care Partners, displays nearly as much original art. However, the 400 pieces of art at Primary Care Partners are not a permanent collection. The artwork is shown on a rotating basis and is available for purchase.

The decision to purchase art for permanent display was made because of the role visual art plays in healing, said Pamela Blythe of Blythe Group Co. and the lead art designer for St. Mary’s Century Project. The project includes renovation of some current hospital space and the addition of a 12-story tower.

Art may not seem important in a hospital, where patients are trying to sleep and guests are pacing, but that is not the case, said Blythe, who has nearly 30 years experience designing art displays at hospitals.

“Art is supposed to be a positive distraction,” Blythe said.

Officials at St. Mary’s deemed artwork an important enough component in the Century Project that they appointed a committee to select the 350 pieces of art, said Samantha Moe, spokeswoman for St. Mary’s.

The committee met for eight hours one day earlier this year to deliberate and vote on what artwork to select from the nearly 1,000 pieces submitted for consideration.

“Every piece had its place,” Blythe said.

For example, area artist Virginia Blackstock’s vibrant watercolor of children riding bicycles hangs on the Women’s Health and Childbirth Services floor of the new tower. The committee thought the brightly-colored painting of children laughing and playing was appropriate for the wing where children are born, McNab said.

Similar thought was given to the other pieces of art.

To demonstrate that point, Blythe pulled out a floor plan of the new addition. Printed, miniature versions of each piece of art St. Mary’s purchased were taped to the spots where they were hung or placed.

“If (patients or guests) need that distraction, you can walk up and down the hallway,” Blythe said. “It’s like a gallery.”

The halls of St. Mary’s new addition do have a gallery feel. The light-colored paint enables the colors in the artwork to stand out.

In addition to her responsibilities with the art, Blythe was responsible for designing the walkways of the new tower to make it easier for people to find their way around.

Blythe gave each floor a theme and color based on the flowers of the Colorado National Monument.

A copper finish on the walls near elevators should help people find the elevators more easily.

McNab and Blythe are pleased with how the artwork looks on the new walls and how each piece of art is placed in a section of the hospital deemed most appropriate.

“It’s fabulous,” McNab said. “For Grand Junction to have something like this is fantastic.”


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