Columbia University Medical Center

New Learning Center Becomes A Gallery Space For CUMC Faculty, Staff and Students

The CUMC Fine Art Exhibition, featuring the works of faculty, staff, and students, is currently on display in the new Hammer Teaching and Learning Center (TLC). Spread over the two floors of the TLC, the exhibit showcases 120 pieces from 40 artists.

Exhibit curator Nicholas Colacchio ’11 in front of a poster of artist profiles
The pieces range from pencil drawings to stone and metal sculptures, from artists who represent all walks of life at CUMC, including long-standing attendings, administrative staff, and students.

“Art was not part of my upbringing in Wyoming,” said Stephen Nicholas, MD, assistant dean for admissions for P&S and professor of clinical pediatrics, whose photography and mixed media appears in the exhibit. “When I was in college, I discovered the immense satisfaction of black and white photography and working in the darkroom, and photography as an artistic medium assumed a primary interest. I began collecting photography, modestly, and I seriously considered photojournalism as a career. Visiting art museums became a regular habit. Eventually, I began to dabble in other media: sketching with the aid of a camera lucida, drawing, and water colors. In the last few years, I’ve been using bright colors and circles to express non-representational metaphoric feelings or thoughts. Artistic interpretation and expression provide adjunctive roles in my quest to be a compassionate physician, effective teacher, and insightful researcher.”

Art created by Luis F. Cruz, heavy cleaner, facilities
Luis F. Cruz, a heavy cleaner in facilities who studied fashion illustration at the Pratt-Phoenix School of Design in New York, has several drawings in the exhibit. After graduation, he worked for several years as a window-designer for major department stores, but gave up his artistic career nearly 25 years ago for a secure weekly pay check and health insurance to support his family. “I don’t regret it, but I can’t wait until my retirement comes so I can move to Clearwater Beach, Florida, where I will find myself a little corner on the sand and just draw,” Mr. Cruz said.

P&S student Nicholas Colacchio’11, the exhibit’s curator, showcased several pieces that he completed during and since college, including sculptures, drawings, photographs, stone carvings, and bronze castings. He also displayed two medical illustrations of hip and knee replacement hardware that he created in collaboration with William Macaulay, MD, the Anne Youle Stein Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at P&S, for a research paper describing a technique for hip replacement.

“Much of my work has come directly from my interests and experiences in medicine. I’m interested in the human body and our relative experiences of health and illness,” said Mr. Colacchio, who worked as an emergency room technician during college. “It has been fun to exhibit my work in a medical center, where people share these interests.”

Bob Sideli, MD, and Nicholas Colacchio ’11
Mr. Colacchio organized the exhibit in collaboration with Bob Sideli, MD, associate clinical professor of biomedical informatics and CUMC’s chief information officer. The two forged a mentor-mentee relationship at regular dinners hosted by Dr. Sideli for P&S students who are Middlebury College alumni.

Mr. Colacchio majored in studio art at Middlebury and has brought his love of art to P&S. “I’ve appreciated efforts here to create and showcase visual art – such as the Bard Hall art night – but I wanted to do a show that would be bigger and get better exposure,” he said. “As an artist, I felt a need to brighten TLC’s halls as well as give artists a way to show their work.”

Nicholas Colacchio P&S ’11 with his alabaster stone carving “Brian and Gina,” created after attending his first delivery
He mentioned the idea to Dr. Sideli, who had similar thoughts.

“When I first saw the plans for TLC, I thought it’d be a great spot for an art exhibit,” Dr. Sideli said. “And when Nick approached me, we were just finishing the new space and thinking about how to make it more student-friendly.”

Mr. Colacchio and Dr. Sideli sent an email soliciting submissions to all CUMC faculty, staff, and students, and within an hour, they had replies from 50 artists. “It was exciting, but overwhelming,” Mr. Colacchio said. “Clearly there is a huge need within the CUMC community for art, because we had more art than we had room to display.”

“The exhibit is like a narrative medicine program,” Dr. Sideli said. “People in healthcare experience extremes and drama creates art, so it’s not surprising that a lot of art would be created in a medical center.”

Art created by Stephen Nicholas, MD, assistant dean for admissions for P&S and professor of clinical pediatrics
The exhibit opened on Saturday, May 1, and the response has been overwhelming, Mr. Colacchio says. “I received an email from a student I did not know who told me that the exhibit made the last few weeks before finals more tolerable for her and her friends. Feedback such as this made me feel great about putting on the show.”

“It has been so exciting to see how many artists there are at CUMC and how many people are creating in some capacity and want to share their work with the community,” he added.

The exhibit ends June 18, but photos of the art will be on display in TLC in August. Dr. Sideli and Mr. Colacchio also are working on a plan to make the art exhibition an annual tradition.

“Nick is emblematic of our remarkable student body. His bandwidth is huge; he was doing his third-year clinical clerkships while organizing the exhibit,” Dr. Sideli said. “We really have some of the brightest students in the country. The more we invest in students and make the campus a hospitable place for them, then we’ll continue to get the best students, which is better for everyone at CUMC.”

Published June 16, 2010
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