Here's why Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has a world-class art gallery
Theresa Jones and Matthew Wynia
The Denver Post
We have an astonishing collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture on display through May 23rd in our art gallery in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Works by Monet, Rodin, Degas, Picasso and others can be seen in an extraordinarily intimate setting — for free.
People often wonder why there is an art gallery on a health sciences campus. One answer is that just as the sciences require special facilities — clinics and laboratories — to support healing and discovery, artistic and ethical learning also requires distinctive spaces like theatres and galleries.
Still, we know that having a building at the heart of our state’s health sciences campus that is specifically designed to cultivate learning and discovery through the arts is pretty unusual, perhaps even unique.
We, and all Coloradans, are very fortunate to have it.
We use the word fortunate, rather than lucky, on purpose. Because the reason we have an art gallery on the Anschutz Medical Campus isn’t about luck — it’s the result of people who made specific, proactive decisions.
During the construction of our building, many people looked with envy at the place where the art gallery now sits, eyeing it as premium office space. But campus leaders like Chancellor Vincent Fulginiti and many community donors had a bigger vision.
They understood that there are critical aspects of becoming a health professional that simply can’t be taught with textbooks and lectures. Yet, they can be learned through the study of painting, sculpture, literature, film, theater and music.
Specifically, important clinical skills like empathy, observation, moral reasoning, critical thinking and communication are best developed and honed by studying arts and humanities. For example, our health sciences students engage in sessions called the “art of observation,” where they look closely at paintings and photographs to learn the difference between seeing details and interpreting what they see.
Through experiences like these, students begin to understand that context, attitude and story are crucial to understanding what is actually going on. They learn that their perspectives — the lenses they wear — can be very different from those of their classmates, yet both can be valid.
Perhaps most important, they learn to tolerate ambiguity and to question authority. After all, because art evokes multiple interpretations, looking at and talking about art together often leads students and teachers alike to challenge conventions and question hierarchies.
In addition, of course, art itself can be healing — not only for patients and their families but also for working professionals. Our gallery provides a space for quiet contemplation and restoration, on a campus bustling with health professionals and students under stress.
In sum, the art gallery in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities is dedicated to bridging the unfortunate, and counter-productive, divide that has arisen between science and the arts. We use it to explore the most essential questions about human experience, which are common to both health care and the humanities: who are we, and how should we care for one another?
Come visit and experience the healing and teaching power of art for yourself.
And hey, it’s also free.