Clarian art project raising eyebrows

March 12, 2008
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For today, I’m turning the blog over to IBJ reporter Jennifer Whitson. 

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Clarian Health Partners is calling on patients, doctors and amateur photographers to submit photographs to help it decorate three new buildings.

Clarian hired locally based Jacqueline Buckingham Anderson LLC to screen the photos and choose among nature and animal themes to populate the hospital walls. The project has raised some controversy — much of it on local arts blog www.onthecusp.org — because submitters won’t be paid and local hospitals have a track record of buying local art.

In the past, Clarian has paid professional artists for murals and last year Community Hospitals Foundation commissioned more than $400,000 in original artworks to deck the halls at Community Hospital North.

Anderson said her firm never considered paying for the images because the project, dubbed Photos for Health, is about the gratitude patients and the community feel for a place where they go to heal.

In fact, she said, one professional artist contacted her to say how refreshing it was to work on a project where “it isn’t about the money.”

Anderson and Clarian declined to disclose how much they’re spending on the project or how much Anderson’s firm is being paid.

Officials with Arts Council of Indianapolis talked with Clarian in the early stages of the project, encouraging them to consider using local artists.

“They chose to go another route and we respect that,” said Shannon Linker, director of artist services. But, she said, opportunities to submit work without pay are common and the artist who found the idea refreshing is likely in the “extreme minority.”

A good move by Clarian? A step back for the local push to buy local art?

Your thoughts?
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  • I find it a little apalling that the wife of the director of the IMA would ask professional, local artists to give their work away for free to a for profit project. While it creates IP issues for artists and Clarian alike, it's also a commentary on how we view the value of creative work. If we, as a city, value the creative class, how does that reflect when we ask them to give their work away?

    I've heard from many local artists who not only are choosing not to participate but are vocally against the project. Some will say artists who aren't interested can just choose not to participate (which will happen), but Anderson's actions do reflect on the IMA and how the Andersons view artists. Inviting artists to give their work to a company perfectly capable of paying for it is the equvalent of a profitable corporation asking a writer to generate copy for the clips -- but for no money.
  • We're supposed to write super short for the Web so I didn't include these details in the original post. But if you're reading the comment section, you're interested enough to maybe want to know:

    The project's Web site is http://photosforhealth.com.

    The buildings getting the images are the Fairbanks Hall, IU/Clarian Education and Resource Center, the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, the Riley Hospital for Children Simon Family Tower and the Clarian Arnett Hospital. The images will be printed and framed and hanging everywhere - hallways, rooms, bathrooms.

    Each building is also set to include a signature art piece, according to Anderson. For the Fairbanks Center, it will be a 11-foot by 17-foot video wall that's already installed. What's still in the works is the video art piece, Anderson said, that will display parts of the photography collection and reenforce Clarian's mission.

    There will also eventually be an online component where people whose images were chosen can track their photo down and get directions if they want to see it in person. She said all of the signature pieces will include video art and projection. Locally based Boost Media & Entertainment LLC is doing the Web site.
  • My work was chosen and displayed and I am VERY proud. I am happy to have been able to give my support to those who most need it....the patients. I do not find the situation appalling, and neither should anyone else.
  • My work was also chosen and am right up there along with Audrey in that I am very pleased and very proud to have my photos chosen for Photos for Health.
    I do not need the kudos and accolades, and if my photos make someone smile, that will be my satisfaction.
    My career has been in the health field for 33 years working with cancer patients in Radiation Oncology, so I have a very good understanding of what a pleasant atmosphere can mean during a time of illness.
    I can not speak for the Indianapolis professional artists, but in the city of Lafayette, I know of several professional artists that donate their work(s) to charities all throughout the year.
    Good job Photos for Health!!

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