Elevated | UW Health University Hospital - CODAworx

Elevated | UW Health University Hospital

Submitted by Lisa Frank

Client: UW Health

Location: Madison, WI, United States

Completion date: 2024

Project Team

Artist

Lisa A. Frank

Lisa Frank Photography

Art Project Manager

Mandy Kron

UW Health

Overview

Rich tapestries of butterflies, dragonflies and vibrant florals enliven the elevator cabs of the busy UW Health University Hospital. The elevators at the University Hospital had become dated and worn from years of use. Updating each elevator bank is part of a larger initiative to update the building. UW Health is committed to the idea that the presence of art makes a positive contribution in the contemporary healthcare setting.

High standards exist for excellent patient/visitor experiences. These are highly trafficked elevators that take visitors, staff and patients to the inpatient units—a stressful experience for many. Lisa Frank’s artwork provides a positive distraction in this important healthcare passageway. The light box images are both calming and curious which help to alleviate the hospital’s inherent stressfulness; their bold colors and unexpected scale ease patient/caregiver tensions by offering something to focus on other than their personal situation. Medical staff benefit in similar ways. Their well being is essential to UW Health.

The lightbox images are each 46”H x 78”W. They were printed on a 0.01″ thick polycarbonate with a matte finish. The light boxes used LED bulbs and were installed by employees of UW Health.

Goals

Elevators are small environments with an important function; however, the typical elevator environment exists as a space to step into in order to step out of.

In this project, elevator riders—patients, visitors, staff—are drawn into a macro world as it hasn’t been seen before. It is charged with wonder—richly imagined, complex and accessible. For a brief spell the artwork offers a gentle, captivating world on which to focus. A rider can be mesmerized by the anthers of an orchid and the antennae of a swallowtail butterfly.

Both Lisa and Mandy believe that bringing natural world subjects into hospitals provides comfort. Their shared goal: for the elevators to become a generous, welcoming space that is awe-inspiring, allowing riders’ troubles to drift out of mind for the brief duration, free of any healthcare context.

In this bustling hospital, the artwork also supports the visitor in having a positive way-finding experience by reinforcing that they are taking the same bank of elevators up/down that they took coming in/out.

Process

Lisa Frank has worked with Mandy Kron, UW Health’s Art Project Manager, several times over the last nine years. Her work is in the adjacent clinics lobby as well as elsewhere in the UW Health collection. When Mandy visited Lisa in her studio this year, Lisa happened to show her a prototype of a light box which was really just a vintage x-ray viewer that had been re-purposed. Lisa was enthusiastic about the brilliance that backlighting added to her work. Mandy could immediately imagine similar pieces displayed in large light boxes that would span the back walls of a trio of elevators.

Mandy selected the three artworks. They required cropping, editing and enlarging for this new context. In order to insure a stress-free elevator experience, Lisa replaced all stinging insects with more benign creatures when she realized that looking at a 6” bumble bee might create an anxious moment for some.

Additional Information

Lisa’s work begins with a deeply felt connection to the natural world. Her camera brings her in closer where she finds a kind of “presence” as daily noise disappears. These moments bring her wonderment and calm. Piecing together a visual language, Lisa aims to communicate these personal experiences of transcendence—opening the possibility that connections will be formed. Her purpose in taking pictures is to create a visual diary of raw materials. Whether looking at jellyfish in an aquarium or a lady’s slipper orchid along the Ice Age Trail, these “snapshots”—at times ordinary, at times astonishing— become a library of remembrances stored for a later date when they might become part of a layered, composited digital painting. This photographic journal-keeping forms a personal, arbitrary, asymmetrical time chart that is deeply resonant for Lisa and key to her understanding of what it means to be alive and of this world. Unquestionably, Lisa feels fortunate to have the time and opportunity to observe the natural world in this way. To bring a representation of it into a hospital setting, so that someone not so able to be outdoors can receive its benefit, is a privilege.