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Symbols of hope: Artists’ work to fill Seton Medical Center

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Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:51 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Kim Steele

Killeen Daily Herald

Troy Kelley hopes the symbolism of his bronze sculpture at the new Seton Medical Center Harker Heights will provide comfort to patients and their families visiting the new facility.

The Salado artist's piece, entitled "Christ the Good Shepherd," is one of about 40 artworks recently chosen for permanent display in the hospital, which is scheduled to open in June.

Of the 26 selected Texas artists, six of them, including Kelley, are from nearby communities.

"I really love this piece and a lot of people who have seen it say it moves them to tears," said Kelley, whose sculpture is currently in Lubbock for bronzing. "I hope that at the hospital, it will bring serenity during whatever difficult time people are going through and produce a calm feeling, especially if they pick up the symbolism."

While the 6-foot-tall artwork's central figures are Jesus cradling a lamb, Kelley explained that the sculpture's metaphors are in the details: A tear on Jesus' face shows he's weeping for humanity, exposed ears hear the prayers of the people, an extended hand receives all people, bare feet depicts humility, and a slight imprint in the robe represents his loving heart.

In front of the Salado United Methodist Church stands a replica of Kelley's selected artwork with an accompanying plaque describing the sculpture's symbolism. The artist hopes Seton will include a similar plaque when its piece is installed.

But Kelley almost missed his chance to display the sculpture at Seton. He heard about the hospital's call for artwork from another Salado artist the day before the submission deadline. He and his wife put together an application and photographs and the next day drove to the Houston office of American Art Resources, which handled the submissions.

The professional art consulting company works exclusively with the health care industry and is responsible for finding, recommending and managing the artwork for Legacy Health Partners Hospitals Inc., which includes Seton in Harker Heights.

"The art program will not only be visually stimulating and supportive of the architecture but will be supportive of the people ... by reducing stress and improving the patient and staff experience," said Jessica McBride, project manager who oversees the art selection for American Art Resources. "There is much artistic talent in the area of Harker Heights; it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate this talent in the new hospital."

Original work

Nearly a year ago, McBride's company started working with Seton's art committee, which set the guidelines for the project. Committee members wanted original artwork that portrayed a healing environment, was welcoming and understandable and came from Texas, she said.

Artists were allowed to submit five pieces of artwork, said McBride, and she received about 150 submissions that included stained glass, bronze, mosaic, ceramic tiles, watercolors, pastels, photography, acrylics and oils on canvas.

The art committee ranked the submissions, then chose the best. Most of the selected artists are from Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Abilene. McBride said the artworks, scheduled for installation in April, will be located in the hospital's high-traffic areas, such as lobbies, the dining room and the main entrance. The cost of the chosen pieces wasn't available Friday.

Besides Kelley, other selected local artists, include Belton photographer Rebecca McKamy, Temple photographer Ken Ethridge and David Salzman, a stained-glass maker in Temple.

McKamy said her selected photograph was a butterfly on a flowering azalea. Ethridge's chosen work is a photograph of his father wiping water from his eyeglasses on a ranch, and Salzman crafted stained-glass windows for the hospital's chapel.

'Find hope'

Jane Gibson, another Belton photographer, had never submitted her work anywhere until another artist offered encouragement. The art committee selected a colorful photograph of a sunset that was shot after a big storm along Indian Trail in Harker Heights.

"Photographs like this are so beautiful, and I submitted it because I wanted people to find hope during times of stress," said Gibson. "It had been a huge, terrible storm, and the sunset right afterwards was just dazzling. There are so many moments like this that take my breath away, and I wanted to share it."

Killeen artist Joe Friddle said the art committee chose his watercolor painting of Salado United Methodist Church but is giving him time to make a replica because he sold the original piece before he entered it. Displaying a print of the painting, Friddle said everything but the tree foliage will be completed soon.

The artist, who works in watercolor, said he decided to submit the painting because Seton was seeking local artists, and as a resident, he wanted the chance to show off something representative of the area. He also thought the painting would help calm people visiting the hospital for medical procedures.

"When hospitals put up artwork, they want something serene so families facing bad news can collect themselves while looking at it and then face what lies ahead of them," said Friddle. "People don't go to hospitals to buy artwork, but if art can be a ministry there, then I'm happy to be a part of that."

Contact Kim Steele at ksteele@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7567.

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