Gratitude Project thanks health professionals in big way

The University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine Healing Arts Program has launched an ambitious public digital exhibit meant to awe, inspire, and most of all, to thank Nebraska’s health care professionals who have worked so long and hard during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Gratitude Project was inspired by spectacular video images of thanks, projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House a year ago, as wildfires devastated Australia. The Healing Arts exhibit will feature animated inspirational artwork, emblazoned with messages like “You make a difference,” “Thank you,” and, “You make Nebraska proud,” projected onto the face of the newly refurbished Williams Science Hall on 42nd Street, on the medical center’s Omaha campus.
“It will cover the entire western façade,” of the building, 25 feet tall by 85 feet wide, said Colleen Heavican Cass, curator for the Healing Arts Program. It’s an ideal location, Heavican Cass said, near one of the main parking garages, at 42nd and Dewey, for health care workers. They will be greeted by the encouraging exhibit as they go to and from work.
Digital mapping technology will project the artwork onto Williams Science Hall from sunset to sunrise beginning this evening, Feb. 3 through Feb. 16.
The description calls to mind especially elaborate holiday lights displays. Does the medical center expect increased traffic on 42nd Street, as members of the public take in the show?
“We hope so,” said Heavican Cass. “The artist wanted it to be bold and illuminating, something that could become a conversation piece for the community.”
The artist is Omahan Laurie Victor Kay, whose work “blurs the lines between photography, painting, art, culture, fashion, architecture and digital medium to reinterpret spaces into imagined worlds,” according to her website. She collaborated with Hylan Miller, an Omaha artist and graphic designer.
And, with the UNMC Department of Facilities, Management and Planning, and Nebraska Medicine Information Technology, to pull it off, along with a private contractor.
A rented projector will sit on the lower roof of Wittson Hall, right outside of Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD’s window.
The Healing Arts Program found no light pollution issues, and no permits were required from the city, Cass said.
The artists are donating their time and talent, and two anonymous donors covered the cost of bringing the exhibit to life.
The Healing Arts Program operates within UNMC and Nebraska Medicine to engage patients, caregivers, staff and students to heal through the arts.
Additional quotes
"We at the medical center are committed to using art to soothe, inspire, strengthen, and heal, as part of our innovative and longstanding Healing Arts Program. We are inspired by the courage and tenacity of our health care professionals, our staff, and our patients, during this COVID-19 pandemic. We hope this spectacular display will help return the favor. Thanks so much to the community members who made this possible. We can’t wait to see it as we look out each night and are reminded that the artistic light and images brings strength and healing."
–Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, UNMC Chancellor
“We are so excited to take this opportunity, with Omaha artist Laurie Victor Kay, to make a grand gesture to thank and recognize our invaluable team for all of their inspiring work throughout the pandemic. They deserve every accolade. But, to thank them further, please, wear masks, distance when you can, and follow other safety and common-courtesy rules. These small acts can have an enormous impact in lessening the load our professionals must carry at this difficult time.”
–James Linder, MD, CEO of Nebraska Medicine
“As I began creating the pieces for the Gratitude Project, I had a diverse array of imagery in mind. The inspiration for this project begins with my personal understanding of how art can heal. Having the opportunity to work with the Healing Arts Board at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and UNMC, I have learned on a deeper level about the many types of stress that have affected health care workers and patients. This has increased dramatically since the pandemic. I believed that this type of message would be a positive note.”
–Laurie Victor Kay, artist
“The Healing Arts Program is thrilled to be able to partner with our local artists to find meaningful ways to thank our healthcare community. We know that art promotes healing and having Laurie Victor Kay’s works displayed is a way for all of us to begin to heal as a community.”
–Amy Jenson, UNMC/Nebraska Medicine Healing Arts Program director
We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.
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