Cancer Center Art: The Selection Process

Artwork at the Cancer center

One of the unique features of the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center is the original artwork selected and displayed for the patients, their caregivers and the staff to enjoy.

Fritzi Briner has a passion for creating art with patients, but also recognizes that viewing art is therapeutic. It is no surprise that she was asked to chair the Art Screening Committee for the Cancer Center. “She was the artistic heart of this process,” says Dr. Laurence Heifetz, who, along with artist Ryrie Valdez and interior designer Joy Meeuwig, formed the committee.

Artwork in a clinical environment has the ability to stimulate creative imagination and elevate the human spirit. Art has the power to promote serenity and encourage healing in forms that may be representational, abstract or fanciful.

The art complements the building’s architecture to offer patients and their families a welcoming, peaceful space that generates inspiration and hope. Briner recalls, “we visited other medical centers studying their creative use of art to get fresh ideas."

The committee established some guidelines based on what they learned. They wanted the art to be durable, permanent and reflective of the quality of treatment the patient would receive. It was to be either created by local artists or celebrating local subjects in order to encourage a personal connection with the community. And, perhaps most importantly, the art had to inspire comfort in its beauty.

Meeuwig explains, “Art for health care is not a matter of individual preference.  Art for health care must appeal to a wide variety of patients and family members through subject matter, use of color and quality of execution.  Art for health care must be non-threatening, must be calm and peaceful, and must evoke feelings that promote healing."

It took more than two years for the committee to select the works of art that would find a permanent home at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center. In some cases, recesses were designed in the walls to accommodate specific pieces. In other cases, the paintings, photography, sculptures and furniture were designed to fit into the building.

Take a personal art tour and enjoy the variety. In the next issue of Tahoe Cancer News, we will explore Cancer Center Art: The Art and Artists.

The Art Selection Committee

Fritzi Briner is a Public Health Nurse and a Registered Art Therapist. She holds an BA in nursing and a MS in counseling and worked at Tahoe Forest Hospital in the 1950s, “when it was just built and there were only two doctors and one RN on duty!”

Laurence J. Heifetz, MD, FACP is Founder of the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center. He is credited with helping to create the concept of a cancer center at Tahoe Forest Hospital and saw it through to its successful completion.

Joy Meeuwig, was the Interior Designer for Tahoe Forest Hospital District from 1999 to July of this year (including at the time of the construction of the Cancer Center). Her firm is Interior Design Consultation.

Ryrie Valdez earned a BS in Art History from UC Berkeley, taught art in elementary schools and ran the gallery/frame shop, Frames by Ryrie, for 27 years. She was a founding member of Sierra Artist’s Network (now called North Tahoe Arts), a nonprofit organization that promotes the arts in North Tahoe. She is the former gallery owner of Ryrie’s Art & Home, in Reno, NV, and is on the Board of Nevada Arts Council.