A new focus

An innovative project has the ceilings of the ICU units at Hadassah-Ein Kerem lined with paintings and photography.

Moving Landscape (photo credit: Avi Hayun/Hadassah)
Moving Landscape
(photo credit: Avi Hayun/Hadassah)
Hadassah-University Medical Center’s two Jerusalem campuses boast many works of art, most famously the Chagall Windows at Ein Kerem. But that doesn’t help lift the spirits of patients in the intensive care unit who have only bare ceilings to look at.
“Faraway Places” (Mekomot Rehokim) is the colorful answer to that gap. Spurred by a suggestion by ICU head nurse Dvorah Moria several years ago, Hadassah Ein Kerem’s two intensive care units now boast a photographic exhibition lining the ceilings of one unit and, most recently, original paintings in the other.
The public will be able to bid on professional-quality replicas of the paintings at a March 10 gala at the Inbal Hotel. The event is the highlight of a Young Hadassah international online auction to raise funds for renovating the pediatric wing at Hadassah’s Mount Scopus campus.
The approximately 300 x 40-centimeter paintings by 10 selected artists are the result of a concept seen through by Nehama Grenimann Bauch to honor the memory of her childhood friend Timora Avitzour.
Avitzour, born six months after Grenimann Bauch in 1982, died of acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 18. Over the course of six years and two bone marrow transplants, the Jerusalem resident had been a patient at both hospital campuses and spent her final month in intensive care at Hadassah-Ein Kerem.
“We always had a sort of sisterly link; so when she died, it felt like I’d lost a sibling,” says Grenimann Bauch, who remembers her first friend as a lively, fun-loving girl who loved to sing, dance, read and write. “She left behind many stories and poems, some of which reflect her thoughts, feelings and experiences while she was ill.”
The project took root while Grenimann Bauch was studying at the Art Academy of Florence and getting involved in Young Hadassah International, a group of men and women in their 20s and 30s working to increase awareness and support for the Hadassah Medical Organization. “I knew I wanted to do something with art and Timora, and my connection to Hadassah started with that idea,” she explains.
“I was writing my thesis for an art degree specializing in stage design, and I maneuvered it to be about hospitals and art. There are all these amazing things happening in hospitals in Israel concerning how the cultural atmosphere benefits patients,” she says.
Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director-general of the medical center, underlined this research in a recent statement on how the paintings, sculptures and drawings decorating the two hospitals provide a healing and calming environment for patients and staff.
“These pieces of art convey the message that soothing the soul is as important to us as healing the body,” says Mor-Yosef. “Psychological research has shown that art has a way of bypassing our defenses and entering our inner being, that its nurturing qualities can help the healing process.”
Thousands of notable artworks adorn the two campuses, yet there was nothing enhancing those parts of the hospitals where patients are relegated to lying on their back.
While doing research for her thesis, Grenimann Bauch met Racheli Cohen, a student at Jerusalem’s Musrara School of Photography and New Media. Cohen had pioneered the Faraway Places photography project in the smaller ICU as per the head nurse’s suggestion. But the ceiling spaces in the newly renovated larger ICU remained bare. When Grenimann Bauch returned from Italy three years ago, she used her Hadassah connections to secure a budget for the painting project from a Los Angeles donor.
Choosing the artists was a carefully thought-out process. “One of the most important things for me was having people who identify with the idea and know Hadassah well,” says Grenimann Bauch, who is now studying psychology and has a small graphic arts business in Tel Aviv. “We spread the word, and people approached me who felt passionate about it; artists for whom this project fit like a glove.”
The works of Judith Margolis, Sharon Binder, Chana Cromer, Ruth Cohn, Anat Yefet, Galina Blaikh, Julia Lagus, Mallory Serebrin, Zoe Pawlak and Yulia Polyakov can be viewed at http://www.hadassahfaraway places.com/ Everything from the subject matter to the colors was decided on the basis of discussions with head nurse Moria and art therapists and social workers, plus the artists’ own research.
“Timora would have loved this,” says her mother, Sara Avitzour, a former lawyer who now works at Hadassah as a clinical psychologist.
“Using art as a way to memorialize her is very appropriate. I can’t see that any good came out of her suffering. But the idea that her life can have been an inspiration for something to help others facing some of the same challenges she did is just wonderful.”
Avitzour, who will speak at the gala, wrote a book about her daughter, And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, which has just been published in Israel.
Moria describes the 18 paintings, enough to mount in each private room in the unit, as “beautiful, spiritual and uplifting. We hear from families how the paintings soothe and calm them and make the care for their loved ones easier. It also makes a world of difference for us, the caregivers, to work in a more pleasant and friendly environment.”
The March gala will feature a dinner book through which families can donate to the pediatric department renovation and commemorate loved ones.
The highest bidder will receive a canvas print of the artwork they bid on, and donations of $10,000 or more will be acknowledged with a plaque in the hospital.
Tangentially, the red-carpet gala also heralds a new era in Jerusalem’s social scene. Jay Shultz of Tel Aviv, one of the volunteer organizers, says it is the first event of its kind to appeal to “young internationals” who frequented intellectual, social and cultural charity events in their cities of origin.