‘Healing Arts Exhibit’ at USC Verdugo Hills aims to shatter bland hospital art stereotypes

The artwork that hangs on hospital walls isn’t widely regarded for its memorability. Pastel landscapes and blandly rendered abstract themes seem designed to offer no offense, but rarely do they inspire a second glance or even a first.

A group of art-minded folks at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital hopes to turn that stereotype on its head Thursday, when the facility debuts the first installment of a “Healing Arts Exhibit,” featuring works by Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge-area artists intended to welcome, uplift and inspire all who behold them.

“We want our community to come in and feel like part of the family,” said Kerry Yoder Hubbard, executive director of the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation. “We really try to create that community feeling, and I think art helps with that.”

An opening reception featuring the work of Glendale watercolorist Vincent Takas will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday near the hospital’s main entrance. It is free and open to the public.

The concept for a rotating exhibit was developed by a healing arts committee formed in January by USC-VHH Foundation Chair Sue Wilder and art therapy administrator Julie Shapka. They invited others to help them craft a vision of reflecting beauty, harmony, health and hope through the works of local artists.

“The new leadership was looking around the space and really wanted to do something to enhance the environment at the hospital and strengthen the community connection,” Shapka said. “There were a lot of blank walls here — it was a blank canvas.”

Takas, himself a member of the healing arts committee, was chosen as the exhibit’s inaugural artist because his use of popular local and regional landmarks as subjects tends to provoke viewers to share their own hometown memories with others.

Most of the 12 works on display through December are locally recognizable — from Glendale’s Alex Theatre to the Montrose Harvest Market to Los Angeles landmark Philippe the Original.

His inspiration is simple, he explains: “I go to Philippe’s to eat. I love it. I paint it.”

An artist who began his career more than 25 years ago with pen-and-ink sketches, Takas was a safety specialist at the Walt Disney Co. in 1990 when an administrator spied his talent and recommended he take “employee development” courses.

Generally offered to Disney’s “Imagineers,” lessons instilled the principles of form, composition and design and helped Takas segue from amateur to professional art, a pursuit he’s continued to this day.

“That changed my life in so many positive ways,” he said.

Shapka said studies indicate exposure to familiar and positive images helps ease anxiety and reduce stress levels among viewers. The benefits of creating that dynamic in a hospital environment, she added, are obvious.

“A patient may come in for surgery, and they may have some anxiety. But if you put some art on the wall, it creates something familiar, it helps them feel less stressed and worried.”

Although the reception will be held Thursday evening, Takas’ works were already eliciting comments and recollections from visitors at the facility on Tuesday, proving the exhibit’s mission may already be hitting its mark.

“This is just wonderful — it’s like therapy for me to see something different” said Los Angeles resident Alicia Nakata, visiting her husband in the intensive-care unit Tuesday. “I think I’ll take some pictures of these and share them with my husband.”

Artwork in the “Healing Arts Exhibit” is for sale, with a portion of proceeds supporting hospital programs.

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital is located at 1812 Verdugo Blvd., Glendale.

For more information, visit uscvhh.org/classes-and-events.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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