By Elise Franco
ValleyCare Trumbull Memorial Hospital and local artists are working together to create a more-comforting setting for patients, visitors and staff.
Debbie Bishop, community relations coordinator for ValleyCare Health Systems, said the hospital began displaying art in a more-significant way in the 1980s and began working with local artists in 2006.
“Art inside of hospitals has been proven to have a healing effect,” she said. “The pieces here have added a lot to the atmosphere of the hospital.”
Bishop said in the early 2000s, the North Lobby gallery was named the Nissen Gallery and dedicated to former curator Marianne Nissen and her husband, Dr. Rolfe Nissen, a retired private practice physician who worked on call at TMH.
“The Nissen Gallery was named for them as a way to honor their work within the community,” Bishop said.
The gallery gives members of the Trumbull Area Artists, or TAA, the opportunity to display their work to people who may not otherwise see it, Marianne Nissen said.
“It’s art for the people who are patients here, the people who work here and all the people who enter the hospital,” Nissen said. “I wanted people to be aware that the art is adding to the cure in a setting like a hospital.”
Karen Frye, director of TAA and current Nissen Gallery curator, said the gallery is beneficial for the artists, as well as the community.
“Nissen Gallery gives artists the opportunity to have their pieces seen by a wider audience,” Frye said. “We’re always trying to encourage the community to embrace the arts.”
Frye said Nissen approached her about eight years ago and asked her to help bring local artists to the forefront.
“Marianne wanted us to have a place to show local artists’ work, and she offered the gallery to us for that purpose,” Frye said. “It’s kind of Warren’s best-kept secret.”
Frye said the gallery has a handful of exhibits each year, featuring the work of hundreds of local artists. She said TAA members are present twice per exhibit, during setup and tear-down, and each time the positive feedback is overwhelming.
“People stop by all the time to tell us how much they love the show, and they’ll ask questions about specific artists or pieces. They give us so much support,” Frye said. “If they didn’t appreciate it, we would not be doing it.”
The gallery is home to 51 photos taken by Gail Trunick, who is known in the local art community for her sculpture work but began taking photographs several years ago. She said the photos in her exhibit, which runs through Aug. 11, were taken earlier this year during a 21/2-month trip to South America with her daughter.
“We covered five countries on $20 each per day,” Trunick said. “I’m not someone who buys souvenirs, so my photos are my souvenirs.”
Trunick said the trip allowed her to experience something most people in America don’t, and the photographs are an opportunity to share that with the community.
“Some of my favorite photos came from the least-developed countries,” she said. “And Bolivia is the most-artistic city I’ve ever been to. It was like walking through a modern art museum.”
Nissen said she’s impressed by the photographs in Trunick’s exhibit and the stories they tell.
“I think Gail’s exhibit is amazing,” she said. “She’s one of the most-unique ceramic artists, and her photography is equally unique. She has an eye for the unusual.”