A rendering of the new patient tower at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. The hospital is working with the Anton Art Center to fill its new patient tower with local art.

A rendering of the new patient tower at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. The hospital is working with the Anton Art Center to fill its new patient tower with local art.

Graphic provided by Henry Ford Health

Henry Ford Macomb seeking local art for expansion

By: Dean Vaglia | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published February 16, 2023

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — So many different things make up a hospital. You’ll find doctors, nurses, patients, equipment and furniture, but also art. And if you are in need of a lot of art in a little time, where is a better place to start looking than in your own backyard?

That’s the idea behind a new search for art at Henry Ford Health’s Macomb Hospital. The regional hospital chain is partnered with the Mount Clemens-based Anton Art Center to facilitate an open call for local artists to submit their work to be featured on its walls.

The call comes as the Clinton Township hospital nears the expected summer 2023 finishing date on its new 225,000-square-foot, five-story, 160-room tower. It is not slated to open until 2024, giving the hospital time to get everything into place. Henry Ford Health has worked to make the expansion relevant to Macomb County patients, and the call to buy local art is a rather unique step to this end.

“Doing an open call is something that is a common practice within arts organizations,” said Megan Winkel, curator of art and healing arts program manager for Henry Ford Health. “There are a lot of artists that are familiar with that process, but typically, it is for temporary exhibitions. It is really allowing us to reach more artists.

“If you’re an artist that is looking to sell your work or get them into a collection like Henry Ford’s and you don’t know someone who is working on the curatorial team, there really is no clear or transparent path to being able to get your work there,” Winkel said.

By going with the open call process through the Anton Art Center, Henry Ford Macomb is able to reach a wider pool of artists rather than buying from galleries and other means. Artists are also able to have confidence knowing their acceptance into the collection comes with compensation.

“Often, if we were putting on an exhibit, whether or not somebody gets compensated for their artwork is questionable,” said Phil Gilchrist, executive director of the Anton Art Center. “It depends on whether they win an award, if we have prize money for those awards or if somebody comes in and purchases the artwork that is on display. But this Henry Ford partnership is explicitly for the purchase of artwork, and that’s really unique. If they select 50 works, 60 works, 70 works, that’s work they’re actually purchasing. And so that’s really a great way that artists are able to earn some income here. Supporting artists is important. Supporting local artists is important. The fact that this major hospital system is looking very specifically to purchase these artworks is an incredible display of support for the local arts community.”

There are few restrictions on what Henry Ford is looking for in the art.

“Obviously, this is for a healthcare environment, so we are looking for artwork that generally promotes a healing environment,” Winkel said. “I am really looking to tap into as many different expressions of that as possible, because ultimately the goal ... we as a healthcare organization want people to feel comfortable and welcome as soon as they come through the door. We know that the care experience is more than just what is happening inside the clinic spaces.”

Winkel says all subject matter is welcome — abstract art is welcome as much as landscapes — as well as all kinds of artists at different stages of their careers, from college students to retirees creating art as a hobby.

The Anton Art Center’s involvement in the project is to help get as many artists involved as possible. The center has handled open calls for galleries and contests but has not handled a call on behalf of another organization.

“This is something of a new partnership for us,” Gilchrist said. “When the hospital approached us with this proposal it sounded like a really unique opportunity to help give local artists a platform in a major health care system in this area, and that was an opportunity we really wanted to be involved in. We were really thankful that the hospital thought of us to help with that.”

Winkel is ultimately the person who decides which art is officially considered — making sure the works are thematically suitable for a hospital, as well as able to be installed on site — but purchasing the pieces comes down to several people and groups. Hospital administration, interior design and facilities managers and a patient and family advisory council will all weigh in when deciding which of Winkel’s curated selections will make it into the expansion.

“A lot of people get to look at it, but it really is all starting with curatorial vision so that the work that is selected all presents a cohesive collection,” Winkel said.

Those interested in learning more about the call for art can visit theartcenter.org/artist-opportunities. Submissions closed on Monday, Feb. 20.