The Art of the Vision Institute

S+S Fall 2022

The Vision Institute’s East Atrium, which leads to the elevator near the Low Vision and Rehabilitation Clinics, will feature a suspended sculpture with hundreds of different colored glass vessels. Conceptualized by Kipp Kobayashi of Los Angeles, the glass will be sourced locally. Each vessel will hold handwritten and printed notes from patients.

“We wanted to integrate art as a dimension of care and not simply decoration,” University of Pittsburgh Department of Ophthalmology Chair Dr. José-Alain Sahel said. “Obviously, the aesthetics had to be compelling, but the artists who competed had to understand the holistic perspective their creation would be part of, and to propose an explicit or implicit message that will contribute to improving patients’ experience.”

Indeed, the artwork in the building was chosen intentionally. There was a national call for artists who had to join a pre-qualified pool to be considered for commissions. Of approximately 250 applications, 120 artists were selected to be in this pool. The selection committee reviewed 20-25 artists for each commission. Members of this committee included Laura Fisher, Senior Director of Strategy and Partnership at UPMC; Nancy Washington, community member, patient, and Eye & Ear Foundation Board member; Eric Crosby, Director of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Lenore Thomas, Chair of the University of Pittsburgh Art Department; Dr. Sylvia Rhor Samaniego, Curator and Director of the University Art Gallery at the University of Pittsburgh; Dan Leers, Curator of Photography, Carnegie Museum of Art, and several providers, including Ophthalmology Department Chair, Dr. José-Alain Sahel and Dr. Gwendolyn Sowa, Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The process has been guided by art consultant Renee Piechocki.

Artists were selected based on the quality of their past work and how their practice aligned with the goals of the program. They had site visits, conducted independent research, and participated in an artist’s intensive where they met with providers and stakeholders.

Several of the artworks are kinetic and two are interactive, responding to touch and sound. All artists considered the needs of patients and caregivers in their specific locations.

“There was a constructive dialogue with Kipp,” Dr. Sahel said. “He embraced my idea to flow onto his piece light waves that hopefully will inspire fluidity and optimism.”

The art will be in publicly accessible areas and assist in wayfinding. Two of the artists are from Pittsburgh, and three self-identify as artists with disabilities – including one who lost his vision in the Vietnam War.

Another key aspect of the artwork is to stimulate conversation and facilitate connection – not just for patients, but for caregivers as well. Not only will people’s experience with the art change each time they visit the building, but some key pieces are being created to make a visit to the Vision Institute a more aesthetic pleasing and relaxing experience.

Naming opportunities are available in the Vision Institute (opening April 2023) at the UPMC Mercy Pavilion. Email for more information before February 1, 2023.