The Art of the Mayo Clinic

I expected the staff of Rochester’s Mayo Clinic to be artists in their fields and my expectations were far exceeded.  Another unexpected side to the Mayo Clinic was how beautiful the buildings were, both in architecture and decoration.  Turns out that the original founders of the Mayo Clinic “used art, architecture, and beauty in surroundings to address the ‘spiritual aspects’ of medical care.”  It started in their original building, which sadly doesn’t exist any longer, and has been carried over to later buildings.

The Plummer Building, their oldest existing building, was opened in 1928 and is now a national historic landmark:

This picture was taken from the 19th floor of the Mayo Building, just to give you some perspective.  I loved the gargoyles, griffins, dragons, and owls carved in stone at the top of the building.  However, my favorite part of the building was the bronze front doors that  have been rarely closed since the building was built:

The doors were closed for events such as:  the deaths of Drs William J. and Charles H. Mayo (1939), President Kennedy’s assassination (1963), and in honor of the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center (2001).

To keep the connection with the old buildings intact, some objects were moved from the Plummer Building to the newer buildings, including this Rookwood Pottery tile water fountain:

The current Mayo Clinic building was built in 1955, and there is a great Art Deco vibe to the portico:

The wavy building to the left is the Gonda Building which has one of the most wonderful atriums I have ever seen:

Can you see the grand piano in the lower left corner?  There were a number of them throughout the complex and they were used by professionals and talented amateurs.  It was lovely to happen across a pianist playing while we were trying to fill a few minutes between appointments.  Just outside the windows there was a lovely garden area  with tables and benches; the flowers and music brought smiles to faces that were tight with anxiety and illness.  By the way, the sculpture on the back wall of the atrium is Man and Freedom by Ivan Mestrovic; it was originally outdoors on the north face of the Mayo Building.

My family enjoyed this garden retreat off the subway level of the Charlton Building; it was a little more off the beaten path and quieter:

Just inside the door from this sunken garden, there was another grand piano, a sitting area, and this fountain which was one story tall:

The first pieces of art we stumbled upon were Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species:

I pushed my sister’s wheelchair right by these gems and merely commented that they looked “really cool” on our way to an appointment.  We noticed the small plaque which detailed the artist, donor, and the title of the artwork on our way back down the pedestrian subway to another appointment.  It became a favorite part of the day to walk past these faces; somehow I felt lifted by their presence.  I’m not a huge Andy Warhol fan, but these prints will always be special to me:

These next two pieces don’t seem to have a connection, but they were in the lobby of the Rochester Methodist Hospital.  The carved mother-of-pearl box and book were donated by King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan:

Side by side with the fantastically carved box was this lovely piece of glass:

The piece was untitled and was created by Dick Huss.

The Mayo has a pretty extensive collection of glass and pottery.  The centerpieces of the collection were the 13 Chihuly chandeliers that consist of more than 1300 pieces:

You could view them from below, and then go to the first floor and view them closely:

They are a truly generous gift which can’t help but make people feel better just looking at them.

The staff of the Mayo donated this fabulous Chihuly piece:

Waterfall Blue Persian Set is located in the Gonda Building atrium and if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time, the sun makes it glow.

On the Mayo art tour, the docent casually mentioned there was a third piece of Chihuly glass on the 5th floor:

We made sure to take a detour to see Emerald Venetian Ikebana with Pink and Blue and Coils.

A close second to the Chihuly glass was the Tiffany glass:

Be still my beating heart; once you have seen Tiffany glass in person, all the imitators pale in comparison.

I should note here that no insurance reimbursement money was spent on this art collection.  The Mayo Clinic receives monetary donations earmarked for art and outright gifts of art from clients, grateful families, and philanthropists.  It’s a wonderful addition to the usual avenues of medical care.

If glass isn’t your thing, the Mayo has a pretty substantial collection of china and pottery:

There were three cabinets of Chinese export china and pottery dating from the early 1500’s to the early 1900’s.  Here is a close-up of one of the cabinets:

Near the large cafeteria, there were two cabinets of White House china and the Mayo brothers’ china.  Seemingly there was a very close historical association between American presidents and the Mayo Clinic; the presidents were suitably grateful and donated White House china.  I’ve omitted those pictures just because I don’t want this to be the longest post ever!

The art at the Rochester Mayo Clinic compares favorably to museums; consider Rodin’s Jean D’Aire:

This was a study for his figure of Jean D’Aire in the Burghers of Calais sculpture.  The final sculpture showed Jean D’Aire fully clothed, but you can see what goes into a completed masterpiece.

These next two sculptures are meant to be touched.  The first is Shamrock by Harry Bertoia:

Shamrock was commissioned in honor of Dwight McGoon, MD in 1976.  In those days, patient’s rooms were marked by distinctive cards so that doctors could find their patients as they walked down a hallway; Dr. McGoon’s card depicted a shamrock.  A grateful family commissioned Bertoia to create one of his tonal pieces.  If you touch Shamrock while someone stomps by, it vibrates.  Bertoia also believed that the piece should be interesting from numerous angles, hence the picture on the right, taken from the base looking straight up.

This depiction of a Salmon fighting for its life is called Moment by Gordon Gund:

Mr. Gund is a patient of the Mayo; he has gradually gone blind because of his condition.  He sculpts by touch and probably feels his work is best appreciated tactilely.

This next set of statutes were positioned against a very bright window.  I wonder if it’s because the posture of the figures are the important part of the sculpture, not the details in bronze.  They are called Play, Dance, and Imagine by Douglas Olmsted Freeman:

Their silhouettes are so evocative.  In the outdoor garden area behind Dance and Play there is an untitled kinetic sculpture by Bruce Stillman.  It is a very playful sculpture and fits right into this theme.

I’m not a big fan of modern art.  However, this next sculpture is so bright and cheery; I really like the colors and the play of light:

These 11 Painted Wall sculptures by Ellsworth Kelly brighten up a waiting area.  There were also a couple of pieces of framed art by Ellsworth Kelly near the Joan Miro lithographs.

I’m well on my way to writing our longest blog post ever, but didn’t think I could leave out Joan Miro’s lithographs, or the bizarre story behind them.  Supposedly, Miro painted them after not sleeping for an extended length of time; they are the stuff of nightmares:

The next piece of art, Off On His Own by Maggi Giles is made of tile.  Maggi Giles also included drawings of her proposed pieces:

This whimsical piece is strangely entertaining; I would put it in an area where children are treated.  The Mayo has a humanities program, Arts at the Bedside, which would be a nice jumping off place for a piece like this.  Kids could make up great stories about this kitty cat.

Although I didn’t get pictures of most of it, the Mayo is full of ethnic art.  You would get off the elevator and glance to one side and there would be a large glass case full of lovely artifacts:

like these African beaded pieces.  There were 19 floors in the Gonda and Mayo Buildings, so you can see that it would take a day just to look at all of those collections.

Besides the outdoor sitting areas, there were a number of parks around the Mayo buildings.  My favorite area was graced with Boy with a Dolphin by David Wynne:

Sadly, the fountain was being cleaned and repaired, so it wasn’t at its best.  Still, the pure joy of the figures were a tonic.

Of course I haven’t but touched the surface of the art on display.  The Mayo Clinic was an amazing place that provided healing to everyone who walked through their doors, whether you realized it at the time or not.  I do have to apologize for the frequent poor quality of my pictures; the light was low in many places and a flash was not possible.  If you ever end up at the Mayo Clinic, do yourself a favor and take the art tour and visit the meditation room.  Both are off the beaten path, but are well worth the effort.  Any information booth can point you in the right direction, and may even tell you about another hidden treasure.

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19 Responses to The Art of the Mayo Clinic

  1. tkarengold says:

    Thank you for altering your course to post about the Mayo Clinic’s collection. I would love to see it in person. Chihuly’s work is amazing and I’ve seen three of his exhibits. Whatever your reason for going to the clinic was originally, may the outcome be successful.

    • kathydeb says:

      Thanks, it was such an unexpected thing to be comforted by the beauty all around us. My sister seems to be doing much better thanks to the excellent staff at the Mayo; she needs all the positive energy anyone sends her way.

  2. Connie says:

    Love the art that you posted. It is truly an impressive collection and I am sure that it brightens the day of those who notice. I am a big fan of Chihuly and love the shapes, colors, and the implied movement of the pieces. Can’t help buy smile when I look at them.

    • kathydeb says:

      It’s an amazing place and I think they are very clever with what art they buy and where they put it. The Chihuly glass sure looks like some sort of undiscovered sea life.

  3. Are You-Kind says:

    Just a foot note, the is a large Alexander Calder Mobile in the employee cafeteria at St Mary’s Hospital. It is quite large and colorful.

  4. Eugenio Roberto Coco says:

    As a returning patient, the view of all the art work fills my eyes and heart with joy!

  5. Can I find out if one of my paintings is still at Mayos? It was placed in a waiting room by the Callahan Gallery 25(?) years ago. My name at that time was Kathleen Conover Miller. Thanks, Kathleen Conover

    • kathy & deb says:

      Kathleen, I’m not sure when I will be in Rochester again. It might be this December, and if so, I will go and look for you! Congrats on having a painting at the Mayo–you’re in good company!

  6. Barbara says:

    Thanks so much for posting this info! I was at Mayo all day yesterday and didn’t have time to see the art collection, other than what I saw in between appointments. I go back in a couple days, and I hope to see it then!

    Kathleen Conover — Did you find out yet whether your work is still on display at the Mayo Clinic?

    • kathy & deb says:

      Thank you Barbara–hope your visit to Mayo went well. I didn’t hear back from Kathleen, it would be awesome if you had time to see if her art is still there. Her email is conoverart@gmail.com maybe she can tell you where her piece was. I hope you were able to look at the displays near the eleators in the Gonda and Mayo buildings–they are pretty amazing too!

  7. I have seen the art at the clinic and I just cannot get enough of it so I had to look again online Thank you for the post, although I want to see the rest of it 🙂

    • kathy & deb says:

      All that wonderful art takes a couple of viewings to take in. I visit old favorites every time I’m there. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Heather Swantek says:

    I, too, have always enjoyed the art collection at Mayo. It has been very uplifting, no matter how sick I was at the time. I believe the box was given by King Hussein and Queen Noor after he was treated by Mayo Clinic, shortly before he died.

  9. Beth Ashley says:

    What happened to the statue of David that was on the outside of the clinic in the 1960s?

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