Art gallery transforms Holtz Children’s Hospital

For Miami Herald.

Jacqueline Roch paced through the hallways of Holtz Children’s Hospital as her son, Lucca, underwent an eight-hour heart surgery.

Lucca was born with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition in which there is an abnormal extra electrical pathway, which can lead to a rapid heart rate. Doctors discovered it when he was 11. Now 16, he has gone through three surgeries.

A couple months after his last surgery, Roch stumbled upon a CBS News special about the artwork displayed at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The segment highlighted the world-class collection of contemporary art throughout the hospital, a collection begun in 1966 when a businessman and art lover, Frederick R. Weisman, suffered a head injury.

His wife, Marcia Simon Weisman, an influential art collector, grew alarmed as her husband struggled to remember her name. To stimulate his memory, she brought some artwork to the hospital. He immediately recognized an abstract piece by Jackson Pollock, with its trademark jagged lines and dripping colors.

“I was still in a very vulnerable, sensitive place and I just got so moved,” said Roch, a visual artist at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood.

She decided to donate her own work to Holtz.

“They didn’t really know what to do with me,” said Roch. “I guess nobody really calls and says, ‘Hey, I want to give you art.’”

The hospital connected her to the Family Advisory Council, a small group created by two mothers whose children have cancer. Today the seventh floor of Holtz has been remodeled with 20 different pieces by 15 local artists, new fluorescent lights and a fresh baby blue paint job. The floor handles pediatric bone marrow transplant cases and and mothers who have high-risk pregnancies.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a parent whose kid has been sick,” said Steven Burghart, chief executive of Holtz Children’s Hospital and the Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial.

Burghart credits the Family Advisory Council for keeping tasks on his radar and coming up with ideas that only parents think about. He often implements the projects in both the children’s and the women’s hospital at Jackson.

The artwork came from local artists such as Stephanie Jaffe Werner, Jackie Gopie and Clyde Butcher, all of whom donated their work.

“We feel like art is part of the healing process,” said Niki Butcher, the wife of Butcher. “Art gives people a moment to reflect on life in a peaceful manner, takes them out of the pain and agony that they are having.’’

Babette Herschberger, an artist at ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road, donated a painting called Linescape #33.

“I specifically chose it because it was very bright and cheery,” said Herschberger. “This is very intentional. It sends the message that we actually care. When you deal with people’s health, you need this.”

Roch is delighted when she sees patients and families admiring the art instead of just pacing the halls.

“The idea is to make it an actual gallery, like if you were walking into a space in Wynwood, so you can actually feel like you’re not in a hospital,” she said. “We hope to expand and pretty much have art everywhere in the hospital.”

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