New hospital will feature museum-quality artwork by local, regional artists

Artwork by Anson Seale will be featured in the main concourse of the UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty and Research Hospital.


Spending time in and out of hospitals as a child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Kate Sheerin is well acquainted with the lack of good art on hospital walls.

“I remember one room I spent a lot of time in looking at Raggedy Ann and Andy over and over. It’s almost the only thing I can remember about that room,” she said.

Sheerin and a committee of 16 community members are ensuring that patients and visitors at the UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty and Research Hospital have more to look at than repetitive images of two rag dolls.

The Healing Arts Program at the new hospital includes 34 privately funded signature art pieces placed throughout its interior and exterior. The artwork consists of various media, from hanging pieces in the lobby to colorful window stickers on the Tom C. Frost Skybridge connecting the hospital to the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. Visitors can also experience a moment of privacy and meditation in the outdoor sculpture garden.

The 28 artists chosen to feature their work are predominantly from San Antonio and the state. Sheerin said the purpose of the artwork is to give patients, family members and staff a sense of peace amid an otherwise stressful situation.

“If it can bring comfort to one person, it’s a success,” she said.

Sculpture garden featuring art works by Laura Walters.

Dacia Napier, MD, is as familiar with hospitals as is Sheerin. The radiologist and graduate of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio remembers the days of beige walls and uninspiring wall prints during her hospital training. More recently, she experienced poor decorative art during her father’s stay in a South Texas hospital.

“During his latest hospitalization, I walked down the hospital hall, and there was a painting askew. It wasn’t even a painting. It was a bad print of something,” she said. “I thought, come on, we can do better. If you see a dingy colored wall, it makes you think that’s their attention to this, and that’s an easy fix. So, what is their attention going to be to a patient?”

Napier and Sheerin joined the committee with an extensive love and appreciation of art. Napier holds degrees in biochemistry and art history, while Sheerin holds degrees in Spanish and art history. The two have served on the San Antonio Museum of Art board of trustees and are avid collectors. However, they both agree that having a background in art is not necessary to appreciate it.

“If you look at and like it, that counts. I hear all these people say, ‘I don’t know how to interpret that or I don’t know what that means.’ That’s not what it’s about. You don’t have to have that as a reference point for yourself,” Sheerin said. “Do you like it or not? What about it do you like? If you can answer those questions, that’s why it matters; that’s what’s important about it. You don’t have to have a degree in art history to make it important to you.”

Sheerin said the artwork chosen for the hospital has its roots in landscapes, natural elements and science.

Anson Seale, a San Antonio artist, will create one of the largest pieces for the hospital’s main concourse. The work comprises 23 different-sized circular wood pieces symbolizing the 23 human chromosomes. The piece represents the harmonious co-dependent relationship between humans and various animal and plant species.

“Rain/San Antonio” by artist Beili Liu.

A suspended art piece called “Rain/San Antonio” in the dining area will be visible from the exterior and from the first and second floors. The art piece by Beili Liu will mimic the flow of water in various stages from rivers, lakes and clouds. Its suspension will create a gentle swaying motion, encouraging anyone looking at it to slow down and regroup. “Rain/San Antonio” is made from silk organza embedded in epoxy resin.

Galleries will be created along hallways throughout the hospital with various works in different media. A sculpture garden will feature steel sage stalks, which will flow into the interior of the hospital. The stalks represent human resilience. The artist is Laura Walters.

The parking garage will also showcase a mural by San Antonio artists Manola and Maria Ramirez with Adriana Garcia. The mural,

“A Season of Healing” by artists Manola and Maria Ramirez and Adriana Garcia.

“A Season of Healing,” will feature a motif of a sun surrounded by clouds that can be seen either rising or setting. The imagery within the design symbolizes the complexity of the human experience.

Sheerin and Napier said the committee, hospital staff, consultants and artists worked hard to ensure the artwork was welcoming and nonintrusive.

“There is this feeling that we want to create something beautiful. There is so much pride, but it’s about being proud of something in our city,” Sheerin said. “We’re trying to make something such as a hospital stay, which is ultimately a terrible experience for many people, into something that is a great experience. That’s such a noble effort.”

The 144-bed hospital is scheduled to open in December, with a primary focus on treating cancer patients.

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