Dana-Farber unveils contemporary art collection, audio tour in Yawkey Center for Cancer Care


State-of-the-art facility pairs a healthy dose of art with state-of-the-art care

Go to the online audio art tour 

When the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute opened in February 2011, it was widely recognized for its nurturing and patient-centered design.

Now, Dana-Farber has further enhanced the patient experience within the Yawkey Center with the unveiling of a new contemporary art collection comprised of nearly 500 works by both local and internationally renowned artists.

The Yawkey Center's art collection is installed in public spaces and patient areas throughout the 14-story building. It incorporates a spectrum of media and includes Andy Warhol's paper Souper Dress c. 1967; a Roy Lichtenstein signed screen print, Titled, 1996; a pair of Kiki Smith's Charm Series etchings, 2011; two Spencer Finch light boxes, Summer Light & Winter Light (Emily Dickinson's Garden), 2010; Julian Opie's LCD screens, View from my hotel room and View from my kitchen window, 2008; Dale Chihuly's blown-glass Misty Persian Pair, 2009; Harry Benson's trio of photographs of the Beatles, 1964; and a watercolor entitled Basquet Ball, 2008 by the Cuban art collaborative Los Carpinteros. There also are works by regional artists, including Howard Ben Tré and Dan Dailey.

"We are dedicated to promoting patient healing and believe that art can enhance that process, and in general, create a more pleasant experience for patients, family members and staff," says Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD, president and CEO of Dana-Farber.

In addition to traditional catalogues and e-catalogues featuring highlights of the Yawkey Center art collection, the Dana-Farber Art and Environment Committee has extended its mission of education, support and entertainment with the creation of an audio guide tour program.

Partnering with Acoustiguide Inc., a New York-based firm specializing in audio guide tours for art and natural museums, historic sites, and the National Archives, an audio program, offered both in English and Spanish, was created to provide additional background and insights into select works of art installed throughout the building.

The 40-minute tour consists of 27 stops, representing 49 works, and provides a commentary on the importance of art in healthcare by Malcolm Rogers, director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and unscripted interviews with artists Ralph Helmick and Cheryl Warrick, who provide narration; collector Frederic Sharf; and art historian Nancy Netzer, director of the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College.

The audio tour is also available on the Dana-Farber website for those who are not physically able to walk around the building or visit Dana-Farber Cancer in person.

A vast majority of the art has come from donations. This has added tremendously to the quality of the collection. It is also an expression of a community that values art in improving the patient care experience.

Beginning in the main lobby, visitors are greeted by a monumental kinetic sculpture of laser-cut aluminum leaves that gently cascades from the two-story atrium ceiling. The suspended sculpture, Human Nature by Boston-based Ralph Helmick, provides a memorable first impression while creating a comforting environment.

"Each piece of artwork has been carefully selected with the goal of creating a soothing experience," said Jane B. Mayer, chair of Dana-Farber's Art and Environment Committee. "We have worked hard to identify pieces that are distinctive and offer patients, family members and staff moments of inspiration and reflection during what are often difficult times."

On the third floor, the Cutler Art Gallery includes work by Jim Dine, Alex Katz, Larry Rivers, Ellsworth Kelly, and others. Across the hall from the Cutler Gallery is the Sharf Rotating Art Collection.

The collection currently includes a premier exhibit of 16 pieces of American fashion illustrations representing three decades of advertising drawings created by Kenneth Paul Block. They are currently on loan to Dana-Farber by Trustee Jean Sharf, her husband, Frederic, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. They will eventually move to a permanent home at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Dana-Farber's Art Program coordinator Elaine Tinetti notes, "Architects made the Yawkey Center more inviting with warm colors and natural materials, including wood and stone. Their use of open floor plans and glass walls allows for expansive views of Boston. We have tried to complement this patient-friendly space by filling it with art that is comforting, interesting and enlightening."

Souper DressSouper Dress, c.1967
About the Art and Environment Committee

Formed in 1998, the Art and Environment Committee is overseen by the Friends of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Its mission is to develop and manage the Dana-Farber art collection.

The committee, comprised of patients, family members, trustees and Dana-Farber staff, carefully selects the art. Because of the unique purpose of the art, specific criteria are used. Details such as color can be an important factor. "Certain colors can remind patients of medical procedures, so careful consideration is given and feedback is always welcome," says Mayer.

The Art and Environment Committee works to ensure that the art is as diverse as the patients who come to Dana-Farber seeking care. Consideration is given to ethnic and cultural backgrounds. "We are part of the fabric of Dana-Farber. The program touches all walks of life so we take great care to make sure it appeals to a wide spectrum of people," says Mayer.

According to the Society for Arts in Healthcare, a growing body of evidence has shown that art can help reduce stress, anxiety, and promote healing. For more than a decade, Dana-Farber has used artwork throughout its clinics to enhance the overall healing environment.

Lydia Lopoukhine, who serves as the art advisor for the Art and Environment Committee, says of Dana-Farber's vision, "It has been such a wonderfully unique experience. Cancer patients are entering a very high-stress situation and the art can help comfort them, along with their caregivers and the staff."

"Hearing stories from patients, families and even staff can be inspiring," says Mayer. "Seeing the healing effect of art first hand is incredibly powerful and clearly an extension of the care offered at Dana-Farber."

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    • For all inquiries, call 617-632-4090 and ask to speak to a member of the media team. Please direct emails to media@dfci.harvard.edu.