July/August 2000

Artwork Displays Core Value of Reverence at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga

07-00quilt Photo

Part of the reverence art exhibit displayed by Ruth Ebert, RN, one of the nurses who hand pieced the quilt.

Visitors and employees at Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Tenn., can see one of the core values of Catholic Health Initiatives displayed in a special art exhibit centered on the core value of "reverence," which features a hand-crafted quilt.

The quilt, made by staff members in Memorial’s intensive care unit, currently hangs in the visitor entrance to the hospital. The staff members conceived of the project as a result of Memorial’s annual educational updates, during which Memorial associates review the core values.

"We talk about ways we can live those values at work and at home," said Ellen Kelley, a dialysis nurse in the intensive care unit. "The quilt was a natural choice. Quilts represent family heritage, or reverence; warmth, or compassion; and skilled craftsmanship, or integrity and excellence. We also have many talented nurses in the unit who are experienced quilters and were more than willing to help."

Work on the quilt began in the spring of 1999 under the direction of Judy Herweyer, RN, who planned the design, then selected and cut fabric in colors that represent each core value: green for reverence, blue for integrity, red for compassion and gold for excellence. Several nurses sewed the quilt squares, then handed them out to the hospital’s nurses during a presentation on Memorial’s philosophy of nursing. Each nurse was asked to think of a member of the hospital family who exemplifies one of the core values in his or her daily actions, then write that person’s name on the square. As a result, the quilt incorporates the names of individuals who work throughout the hospital.

The quilt will hang in several locations around the hospital this year, then will be given to Judy Raley, SCN, vice president of mission at Memorial, as a tribute to her influence on Memorial’s philosophy and the lives touched by her ministry.

The quilt is part of a continuing art exhibit at Memorial, which also features paintings and photographs by local artists. The "reverence" exhibit is the first in a series on the core values. "Artwork enhances the healing atmosphere of the hospital," said Tracy Smith, coordinator of the Wellspring program at Memorial. "Studies have shown that patients who view art or scenes of nature recover faster. It communicates hope and the awareness of God."

Wellspring works with the Chattanooga Association of Visual Arts to coordinate the exhibits. Every two months, the program asks local artists to create new works or select works from their portfolios that reflect the current theme. "Through the core values series, we are helping local artists and the community better understand what Memorial is about," said Smith.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth recently gave the hospital’s Arts-Medicine Committee a $10,000 grant to expand the art program to advance the healing ministry of Christ in the community. Ideas for use of the grant include funding an art instructor for local schools or an art therapist to work with cardiac and cancer patients.

For now, the art exhibits generate positive feedback from patients and employees. "Several people have told me of the memories a piece of artwork brought back to them," said Smith. "A visitor told me it was wonderful to lose her worries for a moment in the beauty of the art. We are only beginning to see how art can be used in our hospital setting to promote the healing process."