By Kevin O’Connor
Dr. Mark Burke, a board member of the Vermont Arts Council, has seen his share of unusual galleries, be it in basements, warehouses or garages. But that’s not what inspired the Brattleboro cardiologist to create his own space in an even less typical location: His hospital examination and waiting rooms.
“We opened this office,” he recalls, “and had a lot of empty walls.”
Burke, a writer and photographer in his free time, could have hammered a few nails and hung some of his own work. Instead, he has teamed with the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center to create a series of specially curated exhibits titled “Art for the Heart.”
Travel up the elevator (or, as the doctor would advise, the stairs) to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Center for Cardiovascular Health and you’ll walk into a modern medical suite where the pastoral views from the windows have to compete with the nearby art.
Most people will recognize the iconic Vermont red barns and blue skies of East Barnard printmaker Sabra Field’s “Green Mountain Mowing.” Blurs of black and white are clearly cows in Brattleboro artist Deedee Jones’ pastel landscape “Summer Idyll.” And sepia-toned oils convey an equally vivid picture in Bellows Falls painter Charlie Hunter’s “Potato Barn.”
Together, the current exhibit, titled “Scenes from New England,” offers “an exploration of the region we call home — the landscape we move through every day, the vistas we delight in contemplating, the shifting seasons we alternately glory in and grumble about,” its brochure explains. “Art offers us a chance to reflect upon elements of the world around us that we may overlook as we rush through the business of our lives.”
For the first show in the fall of 2013, the museum contacted and collaborated with individual artists, only to streamline the process in subsequent exhibits with help from Vermont Artisan Designs, a Main Street gallery that both supplies and can sell the paintings, prints and photographs.
The project has two purposes, museum director Danny Lichtenfeld says.
“We assume people are arriving with a high level of stress,” Lichtenfeld begins, “so let’s counter that.”
The show also spotlights 18 of the “many highly accomplished, talented, and thoughtful artists living and working in our region.”
Putney painter Deborah Lazar is used to showing her art in singular places, having made a name for herself regionally by restoring a turn-of-the-century Carter’s Little Liver Pills advertisement atop a downtown Brattleboro building.
“I’m so happy to have my paintings in any place where people can see them,” Lazar says. “I go where my brush dictates.”
Each cardiology suite exhibit stays in place for six months, with the current show set to run through the fall.
“The idea is to generate a win for everybody,” Burke says. “It’s accessible but very good art, we expose a broad swath of people to it, and I get to come work in a museum every day. I think any opportunity to bring art into the community is an affirmative event.”