MIDDLE CHILD | ‘Visions of Detroit,’ with Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club | Currently on view at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History:
‘We Hold the Community’s Lives in Our Hands Centennial Project’
Artist Statement: “As a freshman in college, Artist Doug Jones became very ill and had to spend one week in the Intensive Care unit at Allegiance Health, now Henry Ford Allegiance Health. That experience left a profound impression on him, he says, “I learned how quickly and painfully I could lose my life, even as a healthy 18 year old. I learned to trust the team working to save me, and I learned not to be afraid or anxious. My life was not in my hands.
The central pair of hands in this series of paintings symbolizes health care professionals privileged with caring for our patients with strength and grace. Water cupped in these hands represents The preciousness of life. The surrounding handprints, collected from community members of all ages, represent diversity, collaboration, and connection. The handprints reflect our tightly integrated community of patients and caregivers and are cast in the colors of water (life), and include Henry Ford Health System blues, Allegiance Health greens, and a Foote Hospital teal.
It is the artist’s hope that these pieces will bring patients and their families a greater sense of security and peace, and that staff will feel a renewed sense of commitment to the care of our patients.”
The first set of hands features Georgia Fojtasek. Her extraordinary vision makes this project, and most others at HFAH, possible.
This series includes many people: Hundreds of people representing people of all ages, primary languages, skill and experience levels, ages, and locations, Joey, Pete, Mike, CJ, Jazz, Lilly, Ryan, Chad, Ben, President Lassiter III, Barbara, Sigrid, my former colleague when I worked in clinical psychology, Dr. Abedi, Dr. Ambani, Dr. Dass, Theresa, and a number of other gracious models for these central images.
I was born at Foote Hospital. I spent a week in ICU there during my first year of college. Foote Hospital later became Allegiance Hospital and is now Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital after ultimately merging with Henry Ford Health System. The long-time CEO, Georgia Fojtasek, had an idea after a conversation she had with an administrator in Benton Harbor. It became clear to her that the hospital is vital to the community it serves and she kept coming back to the phrase, “We Hold the Community’s Lives in Our Hands.”
She asked if the phrase conjured any design ideas.
I can’t think of anything more seemingly and concurrently simple and complicated than a pair of hands working together to cup water. For the project, the hands represent collaboration and integration. The water represents life. Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital commissioned 17 large-scale works featuring similar central images. I worked with 2 dozen ethnically-diverse staff members to produce central images that symbolize Henry Ford Health System’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Throughout the year, I also worked with hundreds of local and regional community members to collect painted handprints in 4 branded colors reflecting the first 100 years of Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital (Foote Hospital teal, Allegiance light and dark greens, and Ford Motor Company’s Innovation Blue). I also developed a custom color for the project that I call, ‘Life Water Blue.’ The handprints symbolize our community, the health system’s background in humanization, and the immense responsibility of caregivers. As Henry Ford Health System President Dwight Lassiter explained to me when he laid his own handprints on the project (January 3, 2019), health care requires unparalleled integration and collaboration.
It became quite the blessing that my sister gave birth to my youngest nephew at that same hospital over the course of the project. My family gifted an additional large-scale work to Labor & Delivery featuring the hands of one of her nurses. There were 3 other unanticipated blessings along the way. My mom participated during one of her appointments at the hospital. Fojtasek’s oldest cat, Munchkin, laid his paw print shortly before he passed away. The Leadership Team surprised Fojtasek at her last Leadership Team meeting as CEO with a specially commissioned, smaller-scale work drawn from the same series.
The works are located at 19 locations:
Currently, I’m working on 19 works for Henry Ford Allegiance Health System and 10 works for University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Our team also recently installed ‘Everyone Loves Somewhere’ at 4 locations as part of this year’s Detroit Design 139 Biennial. For more information on DD 139, click this link. Briefly, it is part of this year’s Detroit Month of Design (September 2019).
I’ll soon post more information about these projects on this page.
I’ll also tell you more about my community work and recent projects, including ‘14,000 dots,’ painted at 427 W. 7 Mile (East of Woodward) for ChaldeanTown/North Town (Detroit) and the PGA (Rocket Mortgage Classic).
Let’s start there.
14,000 dots (aka Detroit.Gradient/Detroit Dot Gradient)
The City of Detroit, State of Michigan, Quicken Loans Community Fund, Quicken Loans, the PGA, and Groundswell commissioned me to paint 14,000 dots.
Community members of all ages, backgrounds, primary languages, skill and experience levels used a special ‘take-away’ stencil I designed to help me paint 2 separate gradients (blue to yellow and yellow to red, the colors of the Detroit City Flag and the Chaldean Flag) in 14,000 dots (427 W. 7 Mile, Detroit).