By Callan Malone
RxArt is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help children heal through the power of visual art. This week, RxArt will host their annual party and auction honoring Rashid Johnson and Neil Blumenthal. We sat down with founder Diane Brown to hear more about the origin of the organization and what’s on the horizon.
Can you tell us a little bit about the conception of RxArt and how it came about?
I had closed my Soho gallery and was working as the curator of both a corporate and private art collection. I had a health problem and a CT-scan was prescribed. I was extremely anxious and wanted to get out of the room. My only escape was through my imagination. I imagined a Matthew Ritchie painting on the ceiling of the room and became completely involved in that imagery. Before I knew it, the test was over and I felt like I had not even been there. I wanted to help others to escape from stressful moments in hospitals. I started to ask my friends – curators, collectors, artists – if they thought I could put museum quality work in hospitals, not charge the hospital and pay the artists. Everyone told me I was crazy – except Aggie Gund – who told me to try it. Her encouragement was enough for me to move forward with my idea.
Is there a particular relationship you try to seek out between the site and the installation?
We select artists based on the geographic and physical site and the patient demographics. We propose artists to the hospital and they select the artist they believe will be the best fit for their patients and space. Once the hospital has agreed upon an artist(s) we approach the artist to see if they are interested in the project and if their schedule will permit them to accept.
What have been some of your favorite installations?
Every time I work on a new installation, it becomes my favorite. CT-Scan Machines and ceilings are obviously places I want to see artwork. We worked with Jeff Koons in Oak Lawn, IL in 2010 to create a complete Koons environment in a CT-scan suite. We are in the midst of a major project with Rob Pruitt for the radiology department at Children’s Hospital Orange County; Rob will transform four long corridors, the waiting room and the CT-Scan suite, including the scanner itself. We are planning the installation for early 2019. Urs Fischer, Laura Owens and Sam Falls created unique wall coverings for the ceilings and headboard walls of the pediatric inpatient rooms at Cedars-Sinai in 2016. Instead of looking up at a blank white ceiling as they lie in bed, the children at Cedars-Sinai look up at incredible artwork.
We at Cultured are big fans of Rashid Johnson. Can you tell us about his upcoming installation at Loma Linda University Children’s Health?
We at RxArt are also big fans of Rashid Johnson. We are honoring him at our annual party on November 8. Rashid is creating one of his brilliant scaffolding sculptures for the lobby of a new pediatric clinic in Indio, CA, which is part of the Loma Linda University Children’s Health network. Additionally he is creating wallpaper for the x-ray suite at the clinic. We plan to install this project early in 2019.
What are some other exciting upcoming projects RxArt is working on?
This is a very busy time for RxArt. We are working on a project at New York University Langone’s pediatric radiology unit with Daniel Heidkamp. Daniel has created cityscapes, which will be translated into wallpaper for a waiting room and the ultrasound treatment room. We expect to install this project in December of this year. Another New York project, which we will install next month, will be the first part of a larger project in Harlem Hospital. We are working with the Haring Foundation to create wall coverings based on a work Keith created in 1985. Another very important upcoming project features artist Jonas Wood. Jonas has created imagery for privacy curtains that will be installed in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at Children’s National Medical Center. The project is nearing completion and will be installed in early 2019. Beginning in Spring 2019, Nicolas Party will create imagery for the 187-foot long corridor that leads from the main hospital to the Operating Rooms at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.