I am Thankful for Art & People

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name.” Proverbs

"call things" detail from "Whispering", 2007-8 by Jaume Plensa. art installation at The Cleveland Clinic
“call things” detail from “Whispering”, 2007-8 by Jaume Plensa. art installation at The Cleveland Clinic

Could the recalcitrant, college-bound teen, teetering the tightrope of doling respect for & desiring respite from her mother, have possibly prophesied her path? Each incoming freshman was invited to select only 2 things that best represented his/herself to the incoming class of peers.

Katy Koran, Art in the Afternoon. The Cleveland Clinic
Katy Koran, Art in the Afternoon. The Cleveland Clinic

Art & People | the 2 necessary entities required for an Art in The Afternoon discussion at The Cleveland Clinic‘s Wellness Institute. I am thankful for the opportunity to volunteer in this Arts & Medicine program designed for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. As an Art History major, all those years ago, I was passionate about the people behind the paintings. Now, with each group that tours the world class contemporary art collection, I am compassionate for the people before the paintings. In those brief lucid moments, memory loss patients recall a lifetime of adventures in dazzling detail. Each story is a precious pearl, hidden within the shell of a person with Alzheimer’s. Alan* once serenaded me from his walker, “Maryann, Maryann in the moonlight…”, recounting a song his father used to sing. For the next hour & a half, every artwork, prints to photos to paintings, seemed to stir Alan’s treasured memories of skinny dipping off cliffs along the French coastline, war, & family. The few of us gathered there who would not forget Alan’s escapades within the blink of an eye, glimpsed at a rare pearl-the abundant life-joy itself.

The wayward teen, with all the detours & downturns since, has finally rediscovered her prophesied path. Art & People. I am Thankful.

"Whispering", by Jaume Plensa 2007-8. The Cleveland Clinic.
“Whispering”, by Jaume Plensa 2007-8. The Cleveland Clinic.

“In the poet, Francois Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-42), the protagonist Gargantua and his crew are on a ship at sea when they hear strange voices in the wind. Because the air is so cold, the words quickly become inaudible and congeal into icy letters, falling soundlessly onto the deck. In Whispering, Plensa translates this poetic fantasy into an artistic reality, creating a silent stream of cascading steel text. Not just a random sequence of letters, Plensa’s Whispering spells out quotations by a wide variety of historical and literary figures, including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Martin Luther King, among others. Plensa writes, ‘Like doors, the curtains reveal and frame our experience in the environment. Language becomes the space of memory.'”

* Names are changed for the security & privacy of patients & their families.


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