Bright, vibrant wall constructions made out of recycled items in funky designs will greet children in the new Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire Hospital’s pediatrics unit and cancer center, and the works’ creator hopes they help ease children’s minds during visits.
Artisan Forge Studios gallery director Christy Skuban’s pieces are inspired by her own childhood playing with tinker toys and colored wooden blocks.
“It was a time of innocence and joy for me, which I still carry around,” Skuban said. “It’s very childlike. Hopefully they’ll be uplifting to patients and their families because the meaning behind my art is to bring joy.”
Skuban is one of 10 artists with Artisan Forge Studios whose work was selected for the new medical center that is scheduled to open July 23 (the cancer center opened in October). But it doesn’t stop there. Marshfield Clinic Health System’s staff were intentional about purchasing local art for the organization, said Bobbie Erwin, the hospital’s New Visions Gallery director, who was among a group of people who selected art for the new Eau Claire location.
Of the 183 pieces of artwork hanging in the medical center, about 150 of them were purchased from local artists and galleries. Erwin said the buyers worked with Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, artists at Banbury Place, 200 Main gallery and Riverwood Art & Framing to find art, as well as more than 25 independent artists.
Internal medicine physicians Dr. Effrain Sueldo and Dr. Martha Hidalgo together donated 17 photographs, mostly of local and regional landscapes, for the medical center.
“That not only helps with the bottom line, but it’s such a great way for people to connect with the work, by seeing art done by their provider,” Erwin said.
Erwin, who works at the Marshfield location, was pleasantly surprised around 1½ years ago when they began the hunt for local art.
“The Eau Claire community was so surprising to me, as someone coming into the community as new,” she said. “It is very arts-focused. There are so many talented artists.”
Among those artists are husband-and-wife duo Wendy Schaefer-Miles and Kevin Miles, who work in Artisan Forge Studios. Marshfield Clinic purchased several of Schaefer-Miles’ abstract “Meditation Series” paintings.
Miles thinks his wife’s pieces will be a great addition to the hospital. The two are known for their realist paintings of landscapes, so he said he was glad to see someone take an interest in his wife’s other project — one he is in awe of.
“When she starts these paintings, she has no preconceived idea where it’s going to go,” he said. “I call it the space between the thoughts, because she goes to this place where she’s not even really thinking about it, it just comes out of her.”
The two have sold their art at expos around the world and have it featured on cruise ships and websites, among other places. They also worked with Marshfield Clinic’s New Visions Gallery in Marshfield, which features rotating exhibits from artists around the world. Knowing the art Marshfield Clinic officials have access to, Miles said he respected them for being willing to purchase so many new pieces for the Eau Claire hospital.
“They have access to so much art globally, so it’s nice they choose to support local,” he said.
He’s glad to see people taking an appreciation in fine art — something he thinks can be taken for granted in a world where you can buy mass-produced products at the touch of a keyboard. Being cooped up in a studio many hours of the day, he added it’s easy to forget something so personal can have meaning for so many.
“It seems very selfish what you (as an artist) are doing because a lot of the time you’re having so much fun, and it’s so gratifying personally,” Miles said. “It’s nice to hear other people enjoy it too.”
Skuban, who has been with Artisan Forge Studios since it formed in 2015, said she was proud to see artists like Wendy and Kevin have their work recognized. The artist collective has worked with corporations before, she said, but nothing to the level of the Marshfield Medical Center partnership.
She added they were willing to support younger artists purchasing their art, which is powerful for someone just starting out. And even though she knew long before stepping foot in the medical center they were working with local artists, seeing it during an open house June 14 was an entirely different experience.
“There are so many artists, not only from Artisan Forge but from the area, and it was overwhelming,” Skuban said of her tour. “It almost brought me to tears to see how our work was displayed and all of the local work there.”
Erwin said the hospital’s goal is to create a healing environment through the artwork on display, and they intentionally select pieces with a positive, uplifting vibe. She added they receive an art budget going into any major remodel or construction site. It is always their goal to purchase local, she said, citing recently adding a new wing in Stevens Point asan example.
In Eau Claire, purchasing local art led to another project, Erwin said: Marshfield Clinic’s New Visions Gallery will host an exhibit featuring Artisan Forge Studios artists in 2020.
“I wanted to bring a group of these artists and their work to Marshfield,” she said. “Maybe there are folks in Marshfield that will never step foot in Eau Claire, but they can really enjoy some of the artwork by these wonderful artists.”
The Marshfield Medical Center is the organization’s main hub and draws patients from more than 40 countries and every state in the U.S., meaning these artists have the chance to gain a much wider audience.
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