Monica Hork

NAP Coordinator- UChicago Medicine
Monica Hork

Monica Hork, the Arts Program Coordinator at the University of Chicago Medicine, worked hard to bring the National Arts Program® to the hospital and in 2006 they held their first annual exhibit.  This year was her seventh running the program and they displayed more than 175 artworks from employees and their family members in the DCAM Skybridge.

Every year Monica takes this very busy and otherwise blank space and transforms it into a stunning art exhibit. Employees, patients and visitors all comment that the show captivates them as they pass through the hallway.

Monica has been working in the arts in healthcare field for quite some time now and fully appreciates and understands the important role that art plays in our lives. We recently asked Monica to comment about the NAP show and here is what she had to say…

Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on at The University of Chicago Medicine?
A. It is a much anticipated annual event which allows the entire community to enjoy artwork produced by the staff and their family members. It creates a more personal feeling of pride in the hospital environment than any other display could. Everyone especially enjoys the amazing artwork produced by the children and teens, some of whom are talented beyond their years. The exhibit is installed in the busiest corridor on campus, the Skybridge link between two major buildings, providing substantial exposure for the artwork.

Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. The excitement and camaraderie the employee exhibit creates generates new connections between coworkers, who discover previously unknown talents in their colleagues, as well as humanizing the staff members as caregivers to patients and their families. The exhibit serves as a reminder that the folks working so hard to support their healing also have other talents and interests that enrich their lives; in particular, these interests and talents which improve their empathetic and perception skills in working with others. In some departments there is friendly competition to see whose artwork garners the most attention and acclaim. The display of artwork plays many roles: enlivening and humanizing the physical environment, providing cultural bridges to help appreciate staff diversity and their connection to society as a whole.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
A. They love it! The opportunity to have their artwork in a professionally installed exhibit where it can be seen by family, friends, colleagues and visitors is empowering. Our exhibit is held every year in November. As early as summer, we receive inquiries about participating in the upcoming show! Every year our Comments Box installed with the show, collects compelling feedback from employees on what the show has meant to them and/or their family members.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in the hospital is so important?
A. Being a patient or accompanying a loved one in poor health creates stress. Providing an interesting, restful, and beautiful environment is one of the best ways to enhance the healing process by reducing this anxiety and providing respite from worry and uncertainty. Needless to say, the same calming effects transform the working environment for the care providers as well.
Here is feedback from one such provider: “Walking through this Skybridge is now an absolute treat. I find I walk more slowly and peace overcomes me by the time I pass by all these beautiful photographs, etc. Peace is not an easy thing for a busy surgery resident to attain.”
The University of Chicago Medicine recognizes the arts can reinforce the spirit of innovation, humanity and revelation that is vital in teaching, medical research and patient care. Through this annual employee exhibit UCM provides an opportunity to inspire, acknowledge and reward creative accomplishment and showcases the many talents of the UCM staff beyond the healthcare.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. The satisfaction and pleasure the National Arts Program exhibit brings that I observe and hear from participants and visitors is what I enjoy the most. Acknowledging participants’ efforts through the awards ceremony as part of the NAP is another favorite aspect of this event. The NAP’s continued improvements to streamline the process of organizing an exhibit helping to make the required coordination more efficient. The wonderful ribbons and certificates and certainly the cash awards provided by the National Arts Program add significantly to this event.
Q. Do visitors to the hospital respond to the employee exhibit?
A. Every year we receive written comments from visitors who love the exhibit and are overwhelmed by the talent displayed. Here are a few examples of feedback from this year’s exhibit:
-“Wow! I am really amazed by the great amount of creativity put into these works. I can tell you all have worked very hard on these. You’ve made this empty hallway into something much more. Me being an artist myself and a 2nd year Liver Transplant patient here, I can truly appreciate all that I have seen here today. Great job!”
-“Beautiful! Multi-talented people. Bravo!”
-“What an awesome portrayal of different art forms. A great way to begin a day in a hospital seeing the beauty of life.”
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. Less paperwork! The online registration makes it convenient for employees regardless of what shift they work on to participant. They can register at a time best for them. Tracking of participant information is greatly improved as a result of online registration as well.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. The power and magic of the arts have impacted me personally for as long as I can remember. Through all chapters in my life connection to the arts have enriched and supported me be it spending countless hours at a home arts table to hearing an inspirational song that changes your mood to my career work in arts in healthcare. The arts have brought new and life-long treasured friends, wonderful work colleagues, interesting travels and adventures to my life.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. My road to the art field is a classic example of “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” Travelling from my home state of California, I took a job unrelated to art in Chicago that led me eventually to working with an art gallery that led me to the field of Arts in Healthcare. Although I wouldn’t consider myself an artist, I do love and have dabbled in painting, drawing, textiles and ceramics, etc. Any opportunity to be creative is an enjoyable one.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. I love all the conversations on installation day from those passing through the Skybridge expressing how excited they are to see the new show and telling stories about their particular piece of art entered this year. Also, you can’t help but smile watching, say a father bringing his child after school to the workplace to see her entry on the wall. If you’re able to catch the moment with a photo, you can see the pride when taking their picture next to the work. I make a point to share these antidotes with hospital Administration, thanking them once again for their continued support of this program.