Expansive Art Collection Brings Shepherd Center’s Walls to Life
Eclectic mix of artwork gives patients and families something pleasing to the eye to view as they move throughout the hospital.
Lining the hallways of Shepherd Center’s seventh floor are dozens of photographs – 77 to be exact – that form a collection resulting from a photography contest Shepherd Center held in 2007 with the theme “A New Outlook on the World.”
The contest, organized by Shepherd Center board member Duncan Beard, drew 1,400 entries from both amateur and professional Atlanta-area photographers. Julian Cox, curator of photography for Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, and Jane Jackson, curator of the Sir Elton John Photography Collection, juried the show. The 77 photographs were selected for their ability to “captivate, inspire and motivate the viewer.”
That desire to captivate and interest the viewer is at the heart of every piece of artwork displayed on the walls of Shepherd Center. The photography exhibit is a cornerstone of the collection.
“We want patients and family members to have something interesting and pleasing to the eye to look at as they travel the halls or go on mobility runs,” says Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd. “We want the halls of Shepherd Center to look less like a hospital.”
It’s an eclectic mix, ranging from paintings to pottery to fabric to mounted fish. Most of the art was given to Shepherd Center by donors and/or art collectors who shared Alana’s vision for an aesthetically pleasing display on the hospital’s walls.
“There’s something for everyone here, and it’s been given to us by people from all walks of life,” Alana says.
One of the biggest displays is a collection of Audubon prints given to Shepherd Center by longtime supporter, the late Charles West, a big collector of the bird prints. “He gave us 103 framed prints,” Alana says, “some of which he bought especially for Shepherd, and it was some of the first art we had on the walls. He later gave us dozens of antique framed bird prints. It’s had a huge impact.”
Hundreds of paintings in all shapes and sizes – some done by well-known artists – have also been donated over the years. Artist and former Georgia First Lady Betty Foy Sanders gave Shepherd one of her paintings that now hangs in the auditorium. Shepherd donor and Atlanta philanthropist Mickey Loudermilk Webb commissioned a series of three murals painted by Georgia artist Henry Barnes on the walls of the cafeteria. He painted these during the evenings at Shepherd, and patients came to watch.
There’s a collection of folk art given by well-known collector Bill Arnett and his brother. When Rena Sartain no longer had room in her house for her extensive pottery collection, but didn’t want it to be split up, she gave it to Shepherd Center. It is now displayed in large glass cases in the cafeteria. Jacque Rubel created two incredible miniature rooms – a “period library” and a dining room – that are showcased in boxes adorning the walls.
Carolyn and Jim Caswell, longtime supporters of Shepherd Center, donated a series of large, colorful kites made by selected artists participating in the American Craft Council Show held in Atlanta. The kites hung from the high ceiling of the main entrance to the Billi Marcus building before it was expanded. “It was such a fun, lighthearted display,” says Carolyn, who purchased the kites at a silent auction with the plan of giving them to Shepherd Center. “We thought it would lift the spirits of those coming to Shepherd, especially the young people.”
Art is even present in the pool area, where a large display of mounted fish hangs at each end. All pieces were trophy fish that people caught, mounted and later gave to Shepherd Center. “I’m pretty sure we’ve saved a few marriages by taking those fish out of people’s houses,” Alana says, “and we’d love to have more.” A plaque hangs on the pool overlook that lists the name of each donor.
No matter the medium, all of the art on display at Shepherd Center is there to inspire and encourage patients, families and staff members. It has been placed with a purpose and is rotated out periodically.
“I love walking into Shepherd Center and seeing all the art,” Carolyn says. “Art lifts the heart and makes people curious. It also sets the tone for walking into the building.”
By Sara Baxter
Color Photos by Leita Cowart
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.