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:
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:
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 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:
On the Mayo art tour, the docent casually mentioned there was a third piece of Chihuly glass on the 5th floor:
A close second to the Chihuly glass was the Tiffany glass:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.