Week 2: The Marriage of Art and Science

You may not realize that art and medicine go hand in hand and both are used amuse and relax patients at Cleveland Clinic.

heart vascular health line art

Austin Petsche, a junior from Western Reserve Academy, is a student volunteer this summer in the Heart and Vascular Institute . While here Austin wrote his insights on things to see and do in and around the institute. Here is the next installment of his weekly write up. 

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You may not realize that art and medicine go hand in hand and it turns out that art is a huge part of the Cleveland Clinic. It is used to both amuse and relax patients.

When you enter the Heart & Vascular Institute you will be greeted by a giant figure being held together by what will look like a child’s construction toys. This structure is not an apple or a heart, but a glacier. The piece, called the “Blue Berg,” represents the glacier that had drifted into the Labrador Sea and has many meanings to Cleveland Clinic patients and health care providers.

The artist, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, completed the “Blue Berg” in two years. It was a complex, collaborative undertaking that required a team of scientists to collect data on the iceberg and also teams of architects and software engineers to compute the figures. After analyzing this data, they came up with a spreadsheet of information the artist used to create the 30-foot sculpture.

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The sculpture came to Cleveland Clinic in pieces– 521 joints and 1651 tubes to be exact. No two pieces were alike. Installing it in the air was no easy feat, but astonishingly, the entire sculpture weighs less than 250 pounds. A USB memory stick, attached to a lower joint, contains all the data on both the iceberg and the sculpture. About an eighth of the way down the sculpture there is a horizontal line encircling the iceberg which represents the water line. Both of these elements help show how the artist fused science with art.

The piece was commissioned for the space and Cleveland Clinic CEO, Toby Cosgrove, MD, believes it is a symbol of the teamwork that is so important to our mission.  “It reminds us that the greater part of an object often lies below the surface,” Dr. Cosgrove said of the sculpture. “For every doctor, there are 18 individuals whose competence is essential for the health of our patients and the success of the organization.”

“Blue Berg” is only one of countless works of art that Cleveland Clinic has on display. Another piece I particularly enjoy is “The Cleveland Soul,” designed by Jaume Plensa. This sculpture is located in the Sydell & Arnold Miller Family Pavilion’s Grand Lobby near the main entrance. Its main purpose is to illuminate relationships between ideas and physical forms. The image of a body made up of language is an apt metaphor for the artist’s belief that the psyche is imprinted with human experiences. I have been incredibly lucky to witness the execution of both world-class art and care everyday as part of my experience at Cleveland Clinic.

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Learn more about art and medicine at Cleveland Clinic, including an online calendar of events.

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