When Meredith Miller ’03 MFA, a senior photographer at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and a working artist, first approached Peter Steere, RPh, MBA, Yale Health’s chief operating officer, with the notion of starting an arts program at the healthcare facility, she was not sure what he would say. But, unbeknownst to her, the idea had been on Peter’s mind since he had seen art exhibited at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and other healthcare institutions earlier in his career, finding the effect to be impressive and calming.
“If you know our building at all,” Peter said, “its white walls are an ideal place to put art; the place even resembles a museum. We just weren’t ever sure what avenue to take in establishing a program. Then Meredith made her pitch.”
“My original impetus was two-fold,” said Meredith. “While visiting friends and family in hospitals I noticed how much art contributed to making the stay more uplifting. Also, I had my own art that I wanted to show. Originally, I was thinking of just gifting my work to Yale Health.”
The Work Begins
The Arts at Yale Health began to emerge in 2018. Meredith presented her idea to Yale Health senior leaders, and they were receptive to the creation of a program that would enhance their patients’ experiences. Peter looked for another champion in the building who loved the arts and recruited his late colleague Heather Smith who listened to Meredith’s pitch and quickly got on board.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time talking to the right people,” said Meredith. “Heather and I took off running, and Peter and Heather were such welcoming, lovely people that my experience with Yale Health has been beautiful, and I feel very valued.”
To support their work, a committee was established, comprised of members from across the university, including several artists. The committee crafted a vision statement and set criteria for submissions. The first exhibition took place in the fall of 2019 and displayed roughly 50 pieces of art by 25 artists. Meredith recalls a moment after the works were installed when she saw a patient describing a painting to his young child in a stroller and how “meaningful” that was to her.
The second exhibit took place in spring 2021, and the most recent collection of works was hung in May, followed by a celebratory opening on June 13. The current show has works from thirty-one members of the Yale community, consisting of 63 works of art — 12 staff members, 5 faculty and students, and 14 affiliates (family members).
Celebrating the Third Installation
During the June 13 opening, five staff members spoke to YourYale about their art and where they get their inspiration.
Michelle Morgan, GSAS ’17, information services consultant, Information Technology Services
Art: “Bubble Wrap,” 2022; punch needle (wool, cotton, acrylic yarns on monks’ cloth), plywood, spray paint
“The piece in the show came from my desire to create something without buying any new materials. Fiber art, like any art medium, uses materials that have an enormous toll on the environment. For this piece, I used up a lot of scrap yarn that otherwise would have been discarded. The plywood is a piece of scrap I found in the giveaway pile at New Haven’s makerspace, MakeHaven. I likely would not have painted it red, but it speaks to the dire nature of our single-use and throw-away culture, and it was what I had left over from an old project! The title, Bubble Wrap, speaks to the visual nature of the piece, the pervasiveness of plastic, and the need to protect and take care of what we have left of this planet.”
June Can, access services assistant, Beinecke Library
Art: “Healing Green and Yellow,” 2022, and “Growth,” 2021, acrylic
June is an artist who began her life as a dancer and moved to painting later in her life. She doesn’t plan her paintings, calling them “Channeled Art,” nor does she know what will come through her until the painting is finished.
“I find painting liberating, joyful, and expressive. Colors to me are vivid expressions of energy. I enjoy letting my heart choose the colors in each painting, and I enjoy letting my paintbrush dance over the canvas. I see a connection between dance and painting, as both are expressions of movement and emotion. Letting your body go and giving it the freedom to portray what you are feeling, was something I did from a very young age.
My mother would put on records after Friday night dinner, move the coffee table, and my sisters and I would dance in the living room — very free style! I remember painting and drawing in the many diaries I filled throughout my youth. As a child I loved to paint trees, and as an adult, painting became a new way of expression that was like dancing. It answered the same need and calling.”
Sherie McGregor, accountant, Financial Systems and Solutions
Art: “Looking up,” 2021, and “Untitled,” 2021, Inkjet photos
“My interest in photography began in college, but I’ve been drawn to the arts (and crafts) since I was a child. Currently, I use my phone and will bring a little digital camera along with me on outings local and far away, usually to capture nature and its textures.
With the images in the show, “Looking Up” reveals my love of playing around with perspective; it’s fun to see what can be done when taking unusual angles. For “Untitled,” I was more interested in the natural foreground almost to the exclusion of the larger background with a famous artist’s work. Both were taken at the New York Botanical Gardens during the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.”
Dana Lipnickas, IT project manager, Operations Portfolio Management Office
Art: “Phantasm,” 2016, acrylic on canvas
Dana draws inspiration for her art from nature, urban spaces, and patterns, and she is heavily influenced by strong color contrasts. She is a trained graphic designer and drafts painting ideas digitally in Illustrator. This keeps her close to her design roots and current in the program. Dana was raised in the 1980s and loves florescent colors. The piece behind her, Phantasm, brings together all these elements and evokes a simpler time.
Being a part of the Arts at Yale Health Committee has been one of the highlights of Dana’s time at Yale. Dana met Heather Smith in 2016 when Dana was project-managing a Yale Health website design project, and they remained friendly. When Heather later mentioned that a committee was forming to showcase art from the community in the Yale Health space, Dana asked if she could join as well, enthusiastic about the committee’s purpose.
“This piece will also be donated to the Arts at Yale Health collection,” said Dana. “As a committee member, my hope is to add to the building’s environment and contribute to creating a vibrant space, in line with the Arts at Yale Health mission.”
Dedicated to the memory of a colleague
In May 2022, Heather Smith lost her battle with cancer, and the Arts at Yale Health program was dedicated to her memory in the fall of 2022. “If you look at every part of what we’ve done with the arts program, Heather has been at the center of it,” said Peter Steere, RPh, MBA, Yale Health’s chief operating officer. “She helped determine where we hung the art, she did the website materials, and she was important in the jury process as to what was accepted because she really had a fine eye. She appreciated art of all kinds and had a vision for this. She helped take it from an idea to a program.”