On July 13, 2023, University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians) Mill City Clinic held their first in-person event since 2020, a reception and artist conversation to celebrate the opening of a new art exhibit in the clinic’s lobby. The exhibit features the work of mixed media painter Andy Ness and ceramicist Eileen Cohen, and both artists were present to discuss their work and inspirations.

The exhibit is part of Mill City Clinic’s “Art, Stat!” program, which was created by Jon Hallberg, MD, medical director of the Mill City Clinic and creative director of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Center for the Art of Medicine (CFAM). 

The Mill City Clinic was built in 2008 with art and design specifically in mind. 

“We wanted art to be integral to this clinic and to the clinic experience,” recalls Dr. Hallberg.

With art in mind, the clinic was built to feature both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional art in its lobby. For the first five years, the space was filled with art from a local gallery, but when that gallery suddenly closed ten years ago and had to remove their art, Dr. Hallberg made quick work of refilling the space with art.

“The clinic was designed to showcase art, and we had these big walls and big windows, and there was nothing on them,” he says. “I reached out to Donna Cox, who I’d worked with before on a temporary art exhibit. I sent her an email, and in the subject line I wrote, ‘Art, Stat!” Within two days we had replaced all the art that was gone.”

Since then, “Art, Stat!” has featured local artists for three or four months at a time, keeping the clinic’s lobby fresh and exciting.

“Artists love having their art here,” Dr. Hallberg says. “If an art exhibit is up for about three months, about 2.400 sets of eyes will look at their art during that time.”

Cox, who serves as curator for “Art Stat!” finds artists to feature through connections to the local art community, but sometimes artists reach out to Dr. Hallberg themselves about displaying their work. Ness is one of those artists, having a personal connection to Mill City Clinic.

“Andy sent me a handwritten card offering his paintings,” Dr. Hallberg says. “His art is stunning. It’s got lots of color, very vibrant. He uses gold foil as part of his paintings. They’re really extraordinary.”

At the July 13 reception, Ness described his work as being inspired by the intersection of art and healing, specifically his experiences processing the loss of a friend. Cohen says that her art investigates perceptions of femininity and masculinity.

The Mill City Clinic was designed with community in mind; art is displayed throughout the clinic, and the building design itself was created to be a soothing, engaging space. Dr. Halberg says that embracing art has been a great way for Mill City Clinic providers to connect with their patients.

“This exhibit in particular really brings up a lot of interesting conversations with patients,” he remarks.

Dr. Hallberg sees the positive impact of the art featured at Mill City Clinic every day and views art as an integral piece of creating a healing environment.

“People of all walks of life come to this clinic, and many people say that the minute they step in the clinic, they feel calm. There’s music playing, there’s art. It’s a place where healing is provided in an artful, intentional way. It’s part of the DNA of the experience, and I think it could be the DNA of the clinic experience everywhere.”