M3 medical students take on art initiative, call for artists to submit
Medical students seek donated art from fellow students and artists to support patient care in Vanderbilt University Medical Center clinical spaces
By: Lexie Little
When rising M3 students Wyatt Cole and Mike Libre chatted about the Nashville Metro Arts Lending Library during a flight, an idea sparked. They could bring vibrance to their patients’ hospital stays by allowing them to choose pieces of art from the catalog to place in their rooms.
The Metro Arts Lending Library gives the public an opportunity to bring professional art into their homes, checking out a work of their choosing for up to three months in a process not unlike checking out a book from a public library.
The pilot program that Cole and Libre initiated with classmate Sophie Schellhammer at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital quickly became popular with patients, providing a sense of personality and home in a space that can otherwise seem sterile and unfamiliar.
“When describing the significance of this program, we often point out the value of making unfamiliar and sometimes scary environments feel more like home,” Cole said. “The true impact is harder to explain in an elevator pitch. Patients select art that represents who they are at their core. The artwork becomes a physical reminder that there’s another person walking around who shares their values, dreams, and fond memories. It is a testament to the fact that even in some of the worst moments of their life, they are not alone. With this in mind, it is no surprise why patients are so curious about the community artists.”
Seeing such reactions from patients, they turned to a bigger picture: expansion across Vanderbilt clinical spaces and the variety of available art and artists. With more than $15,000 already secured from donations and grants, they now seek to build an in-house collection of their own under the name Community Art Initiative (CAI).
This summer, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) Art of Diagnosis Program, sponsored by the Gordan and Betty Moore Foundation, awarded the Community Art Initiative $5,000 to support the project, specifically through exhibition of medical student art.
Medical students across the country are invited to donate original art in support of improving holistic patient care. The unique program allows patients the privilege of personalizing their hospital stay while also offering future physicians the opportunity to care for patients they might not otherwise reach through a humanistic effort. Each piece will be incorporated as a permanent work within the CAI Collection. A curated selection will also be featured in a special “Art of Resilience: A Nashville Perspective” showcase in September with potential for monetary prizes.
M3 Sophie Schellhammer found personal and professional growth through the initiative, saying she felt as though she and her classmates were helping patients to reclaim part of their lives outside the hospital. She hopes other medical students will feel the same.
“It’s gratifying to collaborate with patients as they pick a fitting piece for their room. I’ve found it to be a small gesture that restores a sense of normalcy and autonomy,” she said. “Patients really appreciate the act in and of itself. They’ve expressed to me that it makes them feel like Vanderbilt is going the extra mile and seeing the whole person, not just a medical diagnosis. In addition, the thing I’ve heard most often is that patients find that looking at their chosen piece throughout the day lifts their spirits. It’s more than just some art on the wall, because they know the piece’s story and feel its intentionality.”
Beyond the student call, CAI also seeks donations that encapsulate individual experiences, cultural heritage, or personal philosophies to comfort and inspire patients in a healing space. These donations may come from any artist, with the intention that artists’ work will contribute to a collective narrative of empowerment and unity and bring a sense of community and the outside world to individual hospital rooms.
Special emphasis will be given to art and artists tied to the Nashville area and Middle Tennessee. As with the medical student submissions, art will be added to the permanent collection with a curated selection also featured in the showcase. Prizes will be awarded by jury to the top three pieces through donated funds.
Medical Scientist Training Program student Camella Carlson hopes to see art in the majority of patient rooms, especially the rooms of those that experience longer stays.
“This initiative recognizes that the experience of a patient in the hospital encompasses far more than their medical problems. Hopefully, patient-selected art can recognize patients’ individuality and promote peace and comfort during challenging times,” Carlson said.
Cole echoed his classmate’s sentiment, also hoping artists will see the value of their donation in connecting with individuals in some of their most challenging moments.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of the Community Art Initiative is the opportunity to connect with patients,” Cole said. “Illness tends to encourage introspection, and patients often share the stories that matter most to them. However, participants expect something in return. They are polite and ask a few questions about my background, but they really want to know who the community artists are and the stories behind their work. We look forward to expanding our stories and shared experiences.”
Calls for Artists
Healing Palette: Artwork Connecting Student Physicians and Patients
Statement: Art is a language that communicates universally, resonating with our inherent need for connection and expression. Through the “Healing Palette” series, we aim to connect medical students with the patients of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Selected artwork will become a part of our inaugural Community Art Initiative (CAI) collection. This unique program allows our patients the privilege of choosing the art that graces the walls of their hospital rooms. We hope his collection underlines the tenacity and ingenuity of our community, embodying narratives of optimism, recovery, and solidarity. Each piece serves as a silent dialogue between artist and patient, transforming the local creative landscape and contributing to our collective experience.
Eligibility: Medical students far and wide are encouraged to submit to this exhibition. Additional considerations include:
- Only artwork that can be displayed on paper can be accepted. This includes, but is not limited to: photography, paintings, drawings, graphic design, mixed media, chalk, ink, pastels, and printmaking. Please limit submissions to no larger than 16 by 20 inches.
- There are no restrictions to the number of pieces one artist can submit. However, one submission form per art piece is required.
- Art pieces must be appropriate for a professional setting. They may not contain or depict any protected health information (HIPAA), profanity, nudity, violence, natural disasters, political or religious content.
- Submissions are to be original art only and must not infringe the rights of any other party. The applicant must be the sole owner of copyright in all pieces entered.
- If selected, the artist agrees to ship the piece using a CAI-provided shipping label to arrive no later than September 10, 2023
Deadline to Apply: Aug. 20, 2023
Acceptance Notifications: Aug. 25, 2023
Artworks Must Arrive By: Sept. 10, 2023
Exhibition Run Time: Sept. 23, 2023
Exhibition Location: Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
Delivery to Gallery: Exhibition provided
- Grand Prize: $600
- Second Place: $250
- Third Place: $150
Each selected piece will be incorporated as a permanent work within Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s CAI Collection. However, only a curated selection will be featured in our ‘Art of Resilience: A Nashville Perspective’ showcase in September 2023. Sales inquires will be referred to individual exhibitors.
Matthew Wyatt Cole
Art of Resilience: Community Art Initiative Call for Art
About: We are a group of medical students who aim to connect other medical students and community artists with the patients of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Selected artwork will become a part of our inaugural Community Art Initiative (CAI) collection. This unique program allows our patients the privilege of choosing the art that graces the walls of their hospital rooms.
Objective: We invite art that echoes the diversity and rich tapestry of our Nashville community. Artworks should reflect the unique background of the artist, encapsulating individual experiences, cultural heritage, or personal philosophies. The pieces should also serve as comforting and inspiring visuals you would want in a healing space, like a hospital room. This dualfocus underpins the importance of diversity, which is integral to ensure the representation of a wide array of perspectives and experiences. We hope that your art will contribute to our collective narrative, inspire healing, and foster a sense of unity, belonging, and empowerment in every patient’s room.
- Open to all artists: Special emphasis will be given to artists located in the Nashville and Middle Tennessee area
• Only artwork that can be displayed on paper can be accepted. This includes, but is not limited to: photography, paintings, drawings, graphic design, print-making, and mixed media
• There are no restrictions to the number of pieces each artist can submit. However, one submission form for each piece of art is required
• Art pieces must be appropriate for the professional setting
• Submissions are to be original art only and must not infringe the rights of any other party. The applicant must be the sole owner of copyright in all pieces entered.
• If selected, artist must agree to ship the piece to Nashville, TN using a provided shipping label
Grand Prize: $1,000
Second Place: $500
Third Place: $250
DEADLINE: Aug. 20, 2023
Each selected piece will be incorporated as a permanent work within Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s CAI Collection. A cu rated selection will be featured in our ‘Art of Resilience: A Nashville Perspective’ showcase in September 2023.