Donor Recognition for a Hospital Close to My Heart

Building a new community hospital is an act of love -- and patience and determination and cooperation and generosity!

The new Sutter Santa Rosa (CA) Regional Hospital, right here in the town where Amri Studio has had its home for 30+ years, will open October 25. It was my honor to create the carved and etched crystal Donor Recognition Wall and Plaques that thank the Donors, employees, and community for their part in bringing this great project to completion.

The collage below gives you some highlights -- you may need to click on the image to enlarge it so you can read the captions more easily. Below that, I will tell you a couple of special stories about the project.

Sutter collage a 72dpi.tif

 As glad as the greater Santa Rosa community is to have a new, seismically safe, $284 million state-of-the-art hospital, many of my neighbors felt a deep personal connection to the beautiful old hospital, which was established in 1866.   

Old hospital to compass rose

 This is why we brought some of the key visual details from the old building (above, at far right) into the Donor Art for the new building. In fact, one of the iconic architectural details from the old hospital building became a powerful artistic focal point in the form of a compass rose, used on the main Donor Wall and on smaller Donor Plaques around the building.

Detail of compass rose at santa rosaThis detail says "YOU ARE HERE", and further points into the heart of the new building.The compass is a symbol long used in architecture to ask, "Where are you headed? What is your purpose and intention?" in a profound and metaphorical sense. 

The four directions on the compass are aligned with the true geography of the lobby, showing a heading pointing to the Russian River. This river -- long a symbol of life, community and trade -- empties into the vast and rich Pacific Ocean.  
There is one other very special detail of this installation I want to share with you. Carved in crystal and mounted in its own light box, it is both a tribute to the artist and a gift from his widow to divert and delight children (of all ages, as they say) entering the hospital.

Installing the Snoopy panel 2
Snoopy cartoon horizontal
The artist you will recognize at a glance. His widow, a philanthropist and community acitivist, is Jean L. Schulz. 

My deepest thanks to the team at Sutter Santa Rosa for allowing us to be part of this heartfelt project.



Unveiling Our Digital Donor Recognition

This is the time of year when we gear up for attending our first philanthropy conference of the year -- the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which is meeting in Atlanta next week.

Before each event like this we design and email a special invitation to our email list, which many of you might not have a chance to see. (If you'd like to be on our list, use the link at the right to email me.)

We put all of our design creativity into these pieces, so I have decided to start posting them here for your enjoyment.

This one also announces the unveiling at the AFP show of our new DIGITAL DONOR RECOGNITION offerings. We are very excited about the possiblities for marrying our permanent monument-style Donor Art with the amazing capability of digital technology. Read on!

CC- AFP unveiling digital - front for blog

CC- AFP unveiling digital - back for blog


Fundraising Wisdom From a Woman With Heart

6039 Miller-Dwan Solvey House Donor Wall

Pat burnsDuring an interview with our writer/researcher, a delightful client of ours, Pat Burns, president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation, had some compelling things to say about philanthropy and how she works with her Donors. Her insights are both wise and touching, and I want to share them with you.  (The photos accompanying this blog are from the Donor Art Glass projects we did for Pat at Solvey Hospice House and the Amberwing Center for children, teens, young adults and families struggling to cope with mental health and substance use. Both are located in Duluth, Minnesota.

What prompted you to choose an artist like Christina to do your Donor Recognition as opposed to one of the other Recognition companies?

There's a marked difference in the artistry. We felt the project demanded the ability to not just make an intellectual connection with people, it needed to make an emotional and spiritual connection. The engagement of donors in philanthropy is really one that comes from the heart, and unfortunately so many recognition systems come only from the head. They are only about, "Here's your name on the wall, isn't that wonderful, look at you, you did so much." They don't get what philanthropy is all about.

Philanthropy is really an act of love.
Love needs to be communicated with an emotional and spiritual underpinning. It needs to be recognized in a way that is loving and beautiful and reflects the greater part of us. It needs to be inspirational, to come from a place that isn't simply intellectual. Philanthropy isn't just from the mind, it isn't just about show, it's about a grander purpose. Christina as an artist has a way of expressing that grander purpose that exists behind the philanthropy.

Some folks dismiss philanthropists as people who just want big tax write offs.

What we are truly talking about is philanthropy is in its purest form — and when I am working with people, I don't want it to be about the tax benefit. My experience is that people want to be part of something bigger. They really want a deep engagement in things that they believe in. A simple name list doesn't convey that level of engagement. It doesn't go to a deeper belief system.

If donors are just doing it for tax purposes, our job is to remind them of the grandness of the act so that the next time they step forward to do it, they get this inner stirring that says, "This is really bigger than deductions, really a part of something bigger and more important. I am about changing the world."


The artistry in Christina's Donor Recognition elevates the philanthropic act and helps people really understand the grandness of it. That's where everybody else doing Recognition pales in comparison.

So there's a way in which you use Christina's recognition to teach people the real meaning of their gift. I bet they love that!

People are so moved, they cry in front of these Donor Walls. I'll tell you, after we did the first project with Christina's Donor Wall, it was a WHOLE lot easier to do the second one. People GET IT when you go out and talk with them about it -- especially the Donor Wall Christina did for Amberwing.

Campaign donor wall 1 at Amberwing

Our text was, "Love is a little word. People make it big." That's what it's about. They were very moved. And the design — it was a grand presentation of this universe that the Donors were having impact on. They become more important in the universe — and they ARE more important in the universe because they are doing something for hundreds of people who they don't really know, who they may never meet.

I think especially for the hospice project and the kids' mental health project we did, people were really engaged with their hearts in the giving. If I had done a dry and boring Donor Wall, they probably would have been fine with it because that's what they are used to seeing everywhere else. But because we did something different — something deeper — it elevated everything about the act of giving, it elevated everything the community had come together to do.

Photo 3
What's really cool is that the families who come in to use these facilities are inspired by these walls, especially the kids. Our kids' mental health project is using the Donor Walls now as part of their program. They have added a mindfulness piece to the program so that they go and stand before the Donor Wall with the universe and the dewdrops and the fish and the stars and everything.

Then they read through Maya Angelou's poem, they talk about the poem, they talk about having these people [the Donors] care so much about them that they created this facility where they [the kids] can come receive care.

Strong women
               strong men
          protect the children
                     tend the ailing,
               care for the aged
and in fact,
          the entire world. 
                                      —Maya Angelou

They look at the Donor names and the text and the facilitators use that to say to these children, "This is a part of healing because this community loves you." A bunch of names on the wall would never do that. I am deeply grateful that we have Christina's work here. To do anything less would be to diminish all the work that went into creating this facility.

*          *          *

Thank you, Pat. It was an honor to be a part of your loving and healing mission.

Christina blue sig

A Mission That Comes From the Heart

Amberwing detail
Shh! Sneak preview of the Amberwing Donor Wall

One of the best things about creating Donor Recognition Art is that we get to meet and support people who are doing amazing things in the world.

 Charly installing amberwingOur chief installer, Charly Rinn, and I just got back from installing a Donor Wall at Amberwing, a new mental health and chemical dependency treatment center for children and teens in a beautiful wooded area of Duluth, MN. It is scheduled to open this fall.

 Amberwing is a special project by the wonderful people at the Miller-Dwan Foundation of Duluth. It is rooted in the principles that mental illness is treatable, suicide is preventable, and lives can be transformed with the right help at the right time.

The facility will provide intensive treatment using evidence-based practices as well as innovative, holistic care. It will also provide support, education and assistance to parents, caregivers and the community.

There is a huge need for this kind of project. One of the teens quoted on the Miller-Dwan Foundation website put it eloquently:

"A lot of people don't know how to get the help they need — or where to turn for help. There's a world that kids experience that isn't just about 'cheering up.' There's a lot more behind depression. People need the help, but they're so ashamed of it."
                                            --Betsy Johnson, 17, Duluth

Amberwing dragonflyAn Amberwing is a tiny golden-winged dragonfly. As the foundation explains, “Among the most ancient of living creatures, the dragonfly connotes themes of transformation, emergence and flight. Much like a child, the Amberwing dragonfly experiences a metamorphosis as it matures, emerging from the water and taking flight. Its bright colors take time to develop, reflecting the idea that with maturity, our own true colors come forth.

“Even with two damaged wings, the Amberwing can fly. A visual symbol for strength, resilience and light, the Amberwing dragonfly helps us see through illusions and allow our own light to shine forth.”

6039 Miller-Dwan Solvey House Donor Wall
This is the second Donor Wall we have created for Miller-Dwan. The first was unveiled in 2007 at their Solvay Hospice House, the only residential hospice in Minnesota north of the Twin Cities.

I am proud and touched to be able to support Miller-Dwan in all of their heartfelt projects.

Christina sig cropped

Benefits of Becoming a Naming Donor

Marriott tribute
Tribute to Willard and Alice Marriott at the Marriott Library, University of Utah. This double-layer plaque includes formal photos of the couple, and a larger image showing the pair as young sweethearts.

I was working with the Donor Relations Officer of a new hospital the other day, helping her find the right words for a proposal she was going to make to a prospective Naming Donor. We have done a lot of Naming and Major Donor Tributes over the years, and I was happy to share with her the specific benefits such philanthropists enjoy when they are appropriately -- and generously -- honored.

Here's an easy bulleted list you can share with
your Donors or Development team. (If you'd like a nicely formatted version with photos -- suitable as a Donor handout -- email me at

  • Positions the Donor as a host and sponsor of the institution, welcoming patients or students, visitors, families, and staff when they walk in the door
  • Presents the Donor as a benefactor and humanitarian who truly cares about the well-being of the people who use the institution
  • Enables the Donor to share their wisdom and inspiration with the many thousands of visitors who will pause to enjoy the artwork and read the Donor’s words
  • Humanizes the philanthropist and sends a message that not only honors the Donor’s gift, it forges a long-term relationship from which Donor and institution will benefit
  • The Naming Donor Tribute we create will reflect the shared values of the institution and the Donor: It will be both visionary and enduring, a work of art created with exquisite attention to detail and hand-crafted from the highest quality materials. It will embody excellence, integrity, team-work, caring and respect.

 Here are several more examples of custom Naming Donor Tributes we have created to give you (and your Donors) an idea of what's possible.

Burney cropped

Tribute to a beloved doctor at Nebraska Medical Center, given by his wife. The decorative element on the right side is a detail from the wallpaper in Dr. Burney's bedroom when he was a child.
Batchelor collage.tif

This double-layer Tribute honors George Batchelor, Naming Donor for the Batchelor Children's Research Institute in Miami. The top layer of the Tribute, at left, shows the philanthropist today, at age 80.
The second layer, shown at right using different lighting, is a portrait of the aeronautical industry leader in his 20s as a young pilot.
Eccles cropped

Tribute to George and Dolores Eccles at the Eccles Critical Care Pavilion, University of Utah. Again, the double layer strategy allows us to show
the donor couple in formal portraits and in a fun-loving moment
from their early years together. This kind of Tribute is especially
appreciated in a hospital setting, where patients and families are
delightfully diverted by the sight of a joyful image.
Blocks - awards

Donor Awards in a building block motif with gold-filled Donor names and initials

If you would like us to send you a digital portfolio of our Donor Tributes, contact me at We also have a pdf showing our Donor Awards if you're looking for something simpler.

Places the Donor’s name in one of the most prominent locations in the building

Positions the Donor as a host and sponsor of the institution, welcoming patients/students, visitors, families, and staff when they walk in the door

Presents the Donor as a benefactor and humanitarian who truly cares about the well-being of the people who use the institution

Enables the Donor to share their wisdom and inspiration with the many thousands of visitors who will pause to enjoy the artwork and read the Donor’s words

Humanizes the philanthropist and sends a message that not only honors the Donor’s gift, it forges a long-term relationship from which Donor and institution will benefit

The Naming Donor Tribute we create will reflect the shared values of the institution and the Donor: It will be both visionary and enduring, a work of art created with exquisite attention to detail and hand-crafted from the highest quality materials. It will embody excellence, integrity, team-work, caring and respect.


Christina sig cropped


From Grit to Gleam at Gensler

Grit to gleam cover and page one

This evening I have the honor of showing our work at Gensler's San Francisco headquarters. This is our second invitation to present there this year and I'm looking forward to chatting with tonight's guests. These will include Gensler's own design team as well as designers from HOK, SOM, and IDA. I'm bringing along several pieces of our carved and illuminated crystal, deep-carved marble, and breathtaking three-dimensional crystal sculptures.

Earlier in the year we were invited to make a presentation to Gensler's San Francisco designers showing them how luminous carved and etched glass can enhance the work they are doing for residential and commercial interiors.

We called the presentation "From Grit to Gleam," referring to our fabrication process, where we start by sandblasting half-inch-thick panels of crystal with industrial grit, then polish, inlay with gold, build beautiful hardwood bracketing, add (and sometimes program) LED lighting, and install these gleaming panels in hospitals, universities, corporations and homes around country.

To illustrate the journey each project entails, our designer Caroline created a photo essay in the form of a clever accordion-fold brochure, which I have put online for you to enjoy.


John ruskinThe brochure closes with one of my favorite quotes, from John Ruskin, Britain's leading writer on art, architecture and culture in the Victorian era. (Like most of the great men of the Victorian Age, he was vehemently anti-Victorian in his beliefs.)

Ruskin quote

 On those words of wisdom, I'm off to Gensler!

Christina sig cropped


Monument-Quality, But Easy to Update

Some of the first questions I am asked by administrators planning a new Donor Wall are: How will we update it? And how will we cost-effectively maintain it? More and more of our clients are also asking, How do we keep the beauty of a custom wall AND have flexibility and ease of updating?

We have developed several successful design strategies that enable very easy updates. Let me give you a quick rundown with examples. 

001Donor Walls from left: St. Mary’s Hospital, Reno; Center for Child and Family
Advocacy, Columbus, OH; Miami Project for the Cure of Paralysis

 We can create designs, like those above, consisting of separate crystal plaques and including many invitational BLANKS set in place during the Dedication. As more donors contribute, you ship us the plaques and the names, and we carve them and ship them back for easy mounting.

002Sunset Center for the Arts, Carmel, CA     M.I.N.D. Institute, U.C.- Davis

We can create a mural, like those above, leaving space on certain panels for your estimated number of names to come. We train your local staff to easily take down these carved crystal panel(s) and pack them into our return crate. (This usually takes less than two hours.) You put up a friendly “placeholder” sign we make for you that tells your public that you have more generous community support coming soon! (The panel is returned with the new names within about ten business days.) You can do this on a scheduled, once-a-year basis to help you with planning and to encourage your donors to get on board!

 003Olives and olive branches at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, San Francisco
We can create a two-layer system, like the one above, where the crystal front name panels are removed by your staff in under an hour and shipped to us for new names to be added. This can be done either once a year or more often. We design the wall so that even when the name panels are out being updated, the art glass layer looks beautiful! For example, in the close-up at right, above, when the Donor name panels are temporarily removed, the beautiful olive branches will remain in place.

004Crystal Donor Wall with removable, printed back-mounted name panels

We can create a two-layer system, like the Donor and Welcome Wall we did for Children’s Hospital Boston, above, where a second, back layer is mounted behind the front carved and etched ART GLASS mural. This second layer consists of fire-polished acrylic panels, digitally screen-printed with Donor names that look like they have been etched. You discard the old acrylic panels and get new panels each year. It will take your staff a few hours to slot the new panels into place.



Here is a diagram showing how we engineer walls such as this.

006 Donor Wall at Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, Monterey, California

5  You can choose a COMBINATION system, like the six-panel Donor Wall above, that includes both options #3 and #4.This means you can honor your TOP TIER Donors with their names carved in a permanent layer of crystal and recognize other categories of donors on printed, fire-polished acrylic panels that can be swapped out for inexpensive updating. (In the photo above, panel #2 has TOP TIER permanent carved names, while panels 3 through 6 feature a removable back layer of names on acrylic.)

Or, for simplicity’s sake, we can create engraved metal nameplates that clip easily in and out of our beautiful illuminated ART GLASS systems. (These nameplates cost less than carved glass to replace for updating.)

Finally, we can team with a company that provides easy magnetic (or other material) name strips and place them ALONGSIDE our exquisite carved and etched Art Glass panels. (Most of these companies are SIGN companies that have limited custom-art design capacity, and they do not create artisan-quality permanent, monument-style art, so our working in tandem with them is a good way to upgrade their standard offerings.)

We find that our clients usually have two choices: easy (but uninspired) donor signage, or, more artistic but not easily updateable plaques.

We do it differently: We offer both beauty and affordable ease!

Christina sig for BLOG


1.     We can create a two-layer system, as above, where the front name panels are easily removed by your staff in under an hour and shipped to us for new names to be added. This can be done either once a year or more often. We design the wall so that even when the name panels are out being updated, the art glass layer looks beautiful! For example, in the close-up at right, above, when the Donor name panels are temporarily removed, the beautiful olive branches remain in place.


Giving Thanks for 'Acts of Light'

Decorative Glass Magazine blog TOP

Love of glass and love of gratitude combined this week in a blog post by Patricia Linthicum in her "Designers on Design" column on the Decorative Glass Magazine website.

Patricia contacted me with the wonderful idea of doing a blog this week about giving thanks in glass, and asked me about our work creating luminous carved crystal Donor Walls and Tributes that express gratitude to an institution's generous benefactors.

FAITH carving from GinsburgI talked with her about my belief that each donor gift is an "act of light" intended to heal, inspire, illuminate, or educate, and that I see our illuminated crystal Donor Walls as acts of light that are given in return, "completing" the circle.

To me -- and to the men and women who work at Amri Studio -- each piece of carefully designed and carved glass we create is an act of devotion and service — an " act of light" that literally illuminates others' philanthropic and educational acts of light.

In her post, Patricia featured the stunning Naming Donor Tribute we created for Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute (pictured above, on her blog) and I explained the multi-level symbolism of the spiral-shaped "Donor Wall" we created. To enjoy Patricia's full post, click here.

Christina sig cropped

Heartfelt Recognition, Carved in Stone

I thought you’d enjoy seeing something completely different from us here at Amri Studio -- breathtakingly beautiful carving in stone! We are not only the deepest glass carvers in the country, but we shape and detail the designs with great sensitivity, precision and artisanship. We have carried that skill into the world of stone.

Marble word detail

Marble olive branch detailHere are some detail shots from a project that just went out the door. It is white marble, with delicate sparkling veins of crystal. You may be surprised to hear that we have been carving stone for more than 20 years. After all, it is the centuries-old tradition of exquisite, hand-chisel-cut stone that inspired us to carve permanent monument-quality “transparent stone” — that is, glass.

We have led the way in today’s deep-carved thick glass and crystal. I am an avid admirer of the ancient Greek bas-relief friezes and statuary, and more modern pieces such as the poetic words carved into the Lincoln monument.

East_frieze of Parthenon @ 72 dpiDetail of bas-relief carving from the Elgin Marbles,
originally on the east frieze of the Parthenon

Mass General Hospital graphicWe did several marvelous pieces of black Quaker slate honoring the Naming Donors for the Ellison Building at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The plaques were done in deep-carved v-cut letterforms that were then filled with 23k gold. The effect of the black and gold together was striking and elegant.

 At right is the graphic design of the Mass General plaque (I apologize for not having actual photos of it!) As you can see, the plaque featured a keyhole-cut 6-inch opening in which we inlaid a carved glass motif of the architectural rendering of their building. It is a perfect example of the melding and honoring of the “old” with the “new.”

Stone carving - acorn CROPPED
Here’s another example of our stone carving, which we created for the recent American Healthcare Philanthropy conference. On this piece of carrera marble, we created a stone Alphabet book “page” but with deep-carved classic v-cut lettering, then added an acorn with oak leaves attached. These graphic elements are nearly 5 inches high and are side-lit here by a halogen spotlight.

In addition to marble and slate, we do deep, bas-relief carving in granite, alabaster and limestone. These pieces are beautiful when used inside (as at Mass General) or outside, in healing gardens, meditation walks, Donor Walls and other memorials.

Marble wing detailHow might how our elegant carved stone might serve your needs? We can carve any motif into stone -- flowers, vines, birds – in fact, anything you see in our glass! Silver leaf or copper/gold add elegant and gleaming accents added tastefully into the carving.

Several folks in the memorialization industry are talking with us now and some of our healthcare clients are looking at additions to their hospital Donor areas and healing gardens. Carved stone markers make wonderful permanent and weatherproof landscape enhancements and Donor Recognition for those whose gifts went to creating places of solace like these!

Christina color sig

Photograph of Parthenon frieze: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Seeing Ourselves Through Others' Eyes

Flight of fancy article

We got a wonderful gift in the mail today -- the June issue of Healthcare Design magazine, with an article by Contributing Editor Richard Peck about our Donor Wall at the renowned Children's Hospital Boston!

Boston children's full wall
, as it is called, covers the latest in architecture and interior design for healthcare facilities, and we are honored to appear in their pages. Richard Peck did an excellent job of describing this complicated project and helping HCD's readers really "see" our dynamic crystal wall with its many graphic elements and technical wizardry, including computer-programmed and interactive lighting.

Child reaching We love doing Donor Recognition at children's hospitals because it gives us a chance to put JOY as well as GRATITUDE and an institution's values and identity into our Art Glass. We want the hospital's "little" patients to be entertained and diverted by the images they see -- in this case, kites seeming to change color and fly across the glass, butterflies, and a delightful child reaching for the sky.

As the head of the Studio's amazing team of artists and artisans, I was very pleased to see several of our folks mentioned by name in the article. It especially touched my heart that our late machinist, Fred Oberti, was singled out for his custom-designed steel pivots, which enable the glass panels to swing open so the list of donor names mounted behind them can be accessed for updates. Up to 1,000 names a year can be changed out this way. 

Children's Hospital Boston 9 DF

Art panels in pivot position (prior to installation of Donor name panels behind)

"This functionality was a big deal for us," said Janet Cady, President of Children’s Hospital Trust. "Being able to move names of donors in and out of the donor wall...was an integral benefit of the project."

Butterfly cropped

Moth in crysalis only For the full story, read Richard Peck's excellent article, entitled "Flight of Fancy," or visit YouTube for a great video that the Children's Hospital Boston development team made about this unique project!

Christina sig cropped


The Delight of Designing for Museums

CA at HCD showI am in Houston this week at the amazing annual expo of the American Association of Museums. Among the wealth of technical exhibits -- such as lighting, display hardware and catalog printing -- there are fascinating booths sponsored by companies that create replicas of our primitive ancestors, life-sized dinosaur skeletons and exotic mammals. What an eyeful!

We have done quite a bit of Art Glass and Donor Recognition for museums in our 35-plus years in the "gratitude business," as I call it. These projects have been some of my favorites, and I thought you'd enjoy seeing just a few. (The links will take you to our website, where you'll find more photos and detailed descriptions of each project.)

Clay Performing Arts with onlooker
A striking carved and etched dancer (from an original image by famed photographer Lois Greenfield) glows in changing day-to-night LED colors at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston, WV. We created a combination Donor Recognition-Art Glass mural in the theater lobby. The design also features a "diamond necklace" of fractals trailing across the crystal panels -- a visual reference to the children’s discovery museum attached to the theater. I'm proud to say that this installation was the winner of a Creativity 35 Award of Distinction!


We also used dramatic photography in this National Baseball Hall of Fame Tribute to the great Buck O’Neil, a player, scout and coach who paved the way for African-Americans in major league baseball. O’Neil was known as a consummate gentleman both on and off the field. It was a special treat to select vintage photos of him -- and of the ballpark he called home -- and render them in etched crystal. We use a proprietary technique to develop and convert photographs into a fine DPI (dot per inch) etchable matrix that we then use to create permanent monument-style, highly readable and realistic 3-D images and portraits.

St. joseph with viewer horizontal
At St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore, we created a Heritage Wall that uses images and artifacts from the hospital's long history to create a permanent lobby exhibit of seven niches of carved and etched crystal. The panels not only celebrate the founding and growth of the hospital, they thank the institution's donors while serving as powerful branding and identity statements in the competitive Baltimore healthcare market.

Museum of Fine Arts

At the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FL, we were asked to create a Donor Recognition wall to serve as an eye-catching piece of art in their lobby. Because the museum is known for its dramatic collection of Steuben glass, we aimed to create an Art Glass piece that showed off the elegance and timelessness of deep V-cut carving in crystal.

The crystal panels are edge-lit by strips of LEDs hidden in custom brackets at top and bottom. Crystal acts like a fiber optic, so when light is directed at the edge of a panel, it travels through the glass, highlighting the carving and making its message visible from quite a distance.

Designing for museums is a fascinating process. It gives us the chance to show our unique ability to create stunningly beautiful Art Glass that also serves practical purposes by providing information, identity statements and Donor Recognition.

If you happen to be in the Houston area, MuseumExpo 2011 runs through the 25th. I hope you'll stop by booth 1604 and say hi! 

Christina sig cropped

Honoring the Architect's Intent

One of our important goals when we create a work of Donor Art is to ensure that it echoes and enhances the architecture of the building in which it will be displayed. I thought you'd enjoy seeing some examples of installations where the gesture of the carefully crafted exteriors and interiors of the building are reflected in our design for the Donor Art.

Prentice collage

This state-of-the-art hospital was designed by architectural partners VOA and OWP/P to be a "family-oriented, feminine building.” To blend seamlessly with the architects' design intent, we used delicately curving, gold-filled ginkgo leaves to adorn a carved-crystal Tribute to the Naming Donor, Abra Rockefeller Prentice Wilkin. The lobby, where the Tribute is installed, feels more like it belongs to a beautiful hotel than a healthcare facility! 

Ginsburg collage
To honor Naming Donor Alan Ginsburg and the Ginsburg Family Foundation, we were asked to create a Tribute to Ginsburg's late wife, Harriet, and their son, Jeffrey, for the new Ginsburg Tower at Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute. Our freestanding Art Glass Donor Tribute in the lobby of the building echoes HuntonBrady’s award-winning design with its breathtaking circular tower. Our Art Glass Tribute -- a spiral "grove" that visitors can actually walk into -- was awarded first place in the Unique Signs category at the 2009 International Sign Contest, sponsored by Signs of the Times magazine.

CHOMP collage
Lastly, I want to show you a wonderful opportunity we had to create a Donor Recognition solution for a hospital that was designed by one of the most famous names in modern architecture. In 1962, Edward Durell Stone was commissioned to design a hospital on Monterey Peninsula, one of the world's most beautiful places. He used an iconic pattern of concentric squares throughout the building, both inside and outside. Today, the hospital uses that icon for its logo.

In designing the Donor Recogntion, we wanted to feature imagery that would reflect the community’s love for its natural surroundings and mesh with the iconic design. Along the bottom of the crystal panels, we used floating bars of DNA sequences that mirrored the shape of Stone's decorative squares. In keeping with the Monterey Bay nature theme, we then had those bars morph into patterns of light dappling on sunlit waters where an egret is poised for flight.

As an artist, I find it a real privilege to create designs that enhance the work of truly talented architects.

Christina sig cropped

Thank You for a Wonderful Year!

8035 St mrys pointing Art condenses the experience we all have as human beings, and, by forming it, makes it significant. We all have an in-built need for harmony and the structures that create harmony. Basically, art is an affirmation of life.

This is the time of year when I look back on what we've achieved and am filled with gratitude for the chance to work with some extraordinary institutions and equally extraordinary people. In 2010, we created Donor Recognition Art for huge medical research institutions and a 12-bed hospice, for a major university and a small but fast-growing community college in the Ozarks. We carved and etched single panels for some clients, and 100-foot-long crystal murals for others. 

Each of these projects was deeply meaningful for me and my staff. Without exception, we were enlarged by the people we worked with, the causes we learned about, and the challenges we met.  Thank you all for the opportunity to practice our art and celebrate your patients, clients, staff members and community of donors! We feel truly blessed!

Here is a quick tour of this year's projects, organized by the purpose of the project.

Donor Recognition Art

8035 St Marys Janitor

8035 St Marys_rose At St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, CO, cascading garlands of roses were carefully carved into eighteen crystal panels, while an etched rosary of pearls and gold-leafed beads led visitors from the lobby into the heart of the building. St. Mary’s deeply held values were carved into the crystal along with the names over 900 donors.

10144 Computer History museum_overview
A crystal wall with individual Donor plaques stretches along a hallway at the amazing Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. This type of wall is extremely flexible, allowing for many new Donors at a wide range of giving levels.

 8033 chomp_overview

8033 chomp_bird The themes of nature and medical science merge in this Donor Recognition System at the Community Hospital of the Montery Peninsula in Monterey, CA. Floating bars of DNA sequences stacked along the bottom of the crystal panels morph beautifully into patterns of light dappling sunlit waters where an egret is poised for flight.

We are always delighted when we are asked back to an institution with whom we have worked before, and this was the case at the Eccles Critical Care Pavilion of the University of Utah Hospital. In 2002-2003, we created a very large Donor Recognition System for them, on which we carved the names of some 2,800 Donors -- every single person who made a donation, from local philanthropists to the hospital janitor!

9105 Eccles_overview
This year we created a smaller "sister" wall to honor yet more donors, who funded the hospital's airy new two-story lobby. In creating this new wall, we used the same materials –- carved crystal and gold-leafing -– the same theme, and the same design vocabulary so that the two walls would have artistic unity.

10102 MiamiI Alum_overview
The University of Miami Alumni Association asked us to design Donor Recognition Art that celebrated the Donors who enabled them to build a beautiful new Alumni Center. We created a grid of interlocking crystal panels deep-carved with Donor Names. A rendering of the new Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center, designed by the celebrated architect Michael Dennis, serves as the backdrop.

10132 NWACC_overview
At the NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, AR, we carved and etched Donor Recognition Art to honor Donors to their Building for the Future Capital Campaign. We used lacy silhouettes of young trees as the background to the Donor Names. These trees characterize the local landscape near the college and reflect the youth coming to college.

Major Donor Tributes

There are some individuals so blessed -- and so generous -- that they are able to make very large donations to the institutions they believe in. We had the honor this year of creating tributes to three such individuals.
The first was Abra Rockefeller Prentice Wilkins, the Naming Donor for the Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. Mrs. Wilkins is one of Chicago's most treasured philanthropists and an energetic advocate for women’s health. Her donations first established the hospital, then enabled its expansion and move into a state-of-the-art facility that contains one million square feet of top-notch healthcare for women and children.

10123 Chop Plaque At the renowned Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, we created a tribute to Ruth M. and Tristram C. Colket, Jr., whose lead donation enabled the building of the new Colket Translational Research Building. "Translational research" is medical research that is focused on dramatically shortening the time it takes for a scientific discovery to be "translated" into medicine that can heal people -- and this world-famous hospital is a leader in that field.

10108 Shuster overview
10108 Shuster typography In Ohio, our hearts were touched at the opportunity to create a tribute to Benjamin and Marian Schuster, Naming Donors for the Schuster Heart Hospital. Dr. Schuster is a longtime heart specialist and his wife was a major supporter of the arts in the Dayton area. The Schusters were known in their community almost as much for their love of each other as for their contributions to the community. To honor this aspect of their lives, we overlaid some of Shakespeare's poetry onto the Tribute text we wrote: "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep. The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite."

History/Heritage Walls

Also at the Schuster Heart Hospital, which is part of the Kettering Medical Center, we had the opportunity to create a fascinating combination History Wall and Tribute to inventor Charles Kettering, after whom the medical center -- and the town where it is located -- are named.

10107-kettering-sec-A-photo The History Wall consisted of three sections and concluded with photos of Kettering's son, Eugene, and his much-admired wife, Virginia. Charles Kettering was the embodiment of American ingenuity. He is best known for his invention in 1911 of a push-button starter for automobiles -- an innovation that made it possible for women to drive without the help of a well-muscled man to turn the extremely stiff starter crank. By the end of his busy life, Kettering had filed 140 patents, risen to international prominence as an inspiring leader, and become a major philanthropist.

In this History Wall, programmed and colored LEDs light up in sequence to convey a feeling of moving forward — echoing the result of Kettering’s many inventions and the forward-looking work of the Kettering Medical Center.

We created a second and even longer Heritage Walk at St. Mary's Hospital, in a corridor adjacent to the Donor Recognition Art that I described above.  8035 St Marys Corner

6D St Mary's Evolution angle This 100-foot-long carved and etched crystal Heritage Walk weaves together St. Mary's deeply held religious values with the story of its long and colorful history, told in archival photos, words and graphics. Deep, 3-D carved and chisel-cut letterforms and graphic elements "pop" almost holographically. Photographs -- ranging from archival pictures of pioneering nuns to recent pictures of a CareFlight helicopter -- are converted into dots and etched into the crystal using our DPI dither process.

Art Glass

Because we are the deepest carvers of glass and crystal in the country, we are often called upon to create Art Glass installations that are desired for their sheer beauty. This year, we worked with the University of Notre Dame to transform an aerial view of their famous campus into a wall of crystal for their new Alumni Center.

10119 NotreDame_angle overview
I wrote a blog post about this fascinating project in September -- check it out! The post includes a link to a time-lapse video showing us installing this 16-foot-wide mural.

8022 mathews_detail 2 You'll find another fun time-lapse video in my blog about the chapel we created at Prentice Women's Hospital, which I mentioned earlier in this post. The non-denominational Mathews Chapel was built from unused office space, a fact you would never guess when you walk into this sacred space with its "acres" of blossoming almond trees, lit with soft pink LEDs.

8022 mathews_overview

 Lastly, I want to share with you two projects that we have been working on here in the Studio as a way of exploring design and fabrication possibilities. 

9999 Calligraphy A
These graceful calligraphic explorations are a timeless translation of original copperplate engravings that were master’s exemplars of penmanship in 1780's. I think they look amazing rendered in carved crystal.    9999 eyechart_artwork

Another exploration is this eye chart, the design of which is intended to exercise the viewer's third eye. The chart, which was also sourced from an original copperplate engraving, has a lightly frosted background. Delicate V-carved lines and dots, inspired by scientific eyesight diagrams, weave and cascade across the frosted glass. At the bottom, Einstein encourages us to “experience the mysterious –- the source of all true art and all science.”

9999 eye chart

If you've read this far, I commend you! You can see that we had a wonderful -- and very full -- year. Thank you for being part of it!

May your new year be filled with creative joy and deep satisfaction,

Christina sig cropped



Photographs by Gabriel Harber and Studio staff and consultants

A Historic Naming Opportunity!

Sarahsaurus Here's a really original idea for Donor Recognition! The Austin (TX) Statesman-American reported recently that 73-year-old philanthropist Sarah Butler, who led the drive to raise $1 million for the popular "Dino Pit" at the Austin Nature and Science Center, has been honored by having a newly identified dinosaur named after her!

The bones of the 14-foot-long, 250-pound Jurassic-Period dinosaur were discovered in northern Arizona in 1997. They are estimated to be 190 million years old.

Mrs. Butler is a major supporter of Austin-area arts organizations, including Ballet Austin and the Blanton Museum of Art, but I'm willing to bet she's never experienced Donor Recognition like this before!

For the full (and very enjoyable) story, click here.

Christina sig

Photo courtesy of the Austin Statesman-American

Designing for Devout Organizations

OaksChristian-cropped This week I am at the National Catholic Development Conference in Chicago, where Catholic fundraisers from across the nation are gathered to network and find new and better ways of achieving their goals.

We have done quite a bit of work for religious institutions over the years and we understand the deeply devotional nature of creating custom Donor Recognition and Tributes for them. But we also appreciate that nowadays even religious organizations find themselves having to compete for the attention of their audience and potential donors.

That’s why every Donor Wall we create serves a number of purposes in addition to deeply honoring, unifying and celebrating the institution's founders, staff, clientele and community of donors. Each of our walls also functions as:

  • An identity and values statement
  • A work of art
  • A luminous educational tool
  • The vehicle for a warm public relations message
  • An architectural enhancement
  • A wayfinding landmark

I thought it might be useful for conference attendees to see a detailed example of this kind of Donor Wall, so our graphic designer Shuchi worked with our writer, Margot, to create a lovely little booklet showcasing the Donor and Heritage Walls we did last year for St. Mary's Hospital in Colorado.

Shuchi has also put the booklet online so you can enjoy here. Its pages turn automatically, but by clicking on it, you can view the booklet in full screen, page back and forth, email it to others, or print it. If you'd like a professionally printed copy, just email us with your name and mailing address, and tell us how many copies you'd like.

There's a quote we used in this project that applies to the dedicated men and women I am visiting with here at the conference, all of whom are striving in tight economic times to bring their good works to the attention of interested donors.

Give me persons of prayer
and they will be capable of anything.

Christina sig




P.S. The lovely sculpture pictured at the top of this post is actually a Donor Wall at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, California. Five overlapping panels of crystal, deep-carved by hand, are edge-lit by LEDs, literally illuminating the names of hundreds of donors that radiate from the central gold and white cross. This "Donor Wall" symbolically reflects the identity of this remarkably fast-growing school: It, too, dramatically “rises out of the ground.” For more on this piece, visit the Oaks Christian School page on our website.

Food for Thought, Food for the Spirit

In a letter written to Christina Amri last summer, a longtime registered nurse talks about the effect of an Amri Donor Wall on patients and staff at his hospital.

Dear Christina and Team,

I saw your work for the first time last February at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, when you were just finishing up the installation of a crystal Donor Wall.

Stephen looking at CHOMP I was on duty that day as a registered nurse specializing in palliative care, and stopped by the lobby to see what was going on.  As the glass was revealed, it literally took my breath away.

In the weeks to come, as I walked by the Donor Wall each day, I saw people pause, bow their heads or sit in reverence before the panel, even cry.  Passersby touched it in wonderment, in memory of a loved one, or as a way of bringing them back to their bigger purpose as health care workers or members of a community.

Chomp0457 The Donor Wall is 6 feet high by 18 feet wide and lit by programmed LEDs

The theme of giving leapt off the glass to remind me of the importance of my work as a nurse and its true reward.  I have moved since that day, but before I left Community Hospital I took a man facing a terminal diagnosis to see the Donor Wall. He cried at the beauty of it. Then he asked if I would bring him back to see it again. The spiritual nourishment that this piece of art provided him replaced the food he was no longer able digest. It gave him the courage to get out of bed the next day despite his dying body.

Viewers enjoying the wall This brief story speaks to the power of your inspired work. I cannot say eloquently enough how important your exquisite pieces are out there in the world.

In its highest form, art reminds us of the sacred and binds us to life itself. If there was nothing of beauty, I would find it difficult to make sense of the often day-to-day grind of life, especially when working with the ill and dying.

CHOMP egret

                                                All photos by Gabriel Harber

You and your team turn out striking work that touches the hearts and minds of thousands of people, as I have seen myself. Your beautiful wall in Monterey continues to touch people deeply. As a nurse, I thank all of you for the sake of the many patients and their families who are fed by your work.

Steven Price, R.N.
Sebastopol, CA

Note: I wrote in depth about the Donor Wall at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in an earlier post entitled "Designing Deep Meaning Into Donor Art."  Also, the hospital magazine has written an article about their new Donor Wall. You can read it here. 


A Very Moving Day

Yesterday we finished a delicate, demanding, and very rewarding project: Relocating an extensive 20-foot-long, 8-foot-high crystal Donor Wall, which we created in 2002-2003, to the second story of the elegant and airy new lobby of the University of Utah Hospital’s vastly expanded patient care pavilion.

In addition, we installed a “sister” Donor Wall (above) to honor the generous people who helped fund the new lobby. In creating this new wall, we used the same materials –- carved crystal and gold-leafing -– the same theme and the same design vocabulary so that the two walls would have artistic unity.

The theme we carried over into the new Donor Wall is the aspen tree, which, besides being beloved in the Salt Lake City area, is symbolic of deep cooperation. A quotation on the original wall expresses it perfectly:

"Like a grove of aspens, all seemingly separate trees
but in reality united beneath the soil,
we are all members of a single family,
the family of humankind."


This quote also speaks to the diversity of people needed in a facility of this stature –- donors, medical professionals, support staff and volunteers –- and the dedication to helping others that unites them.

In fact, the original Donor Wall included the names of some 2,800 donors! Every single person who made a donation, from local philanthropists to the hospital janitor, was listed.

The hospital’s new Donor Wall is 10 feet wide by 6.5 feet tall, and is located in a very prominent position, at the top of the escalator leading to the second floor of the beautiful 40-foot-high atrium. It is the first thing you see as you get off the escalator. In addition to the artwork and donor names it has some lovely inspirational quotes, including this one, which really touches my heart.

"We are the leaves of one branch,
the drops of one sea, the flowers of one garden."


From left, Charly, Joe and Jason insert panels into custom brackets

We were delighted to hear that the original Donor Wall was being retained despite all the new construction. As architectural artwork, it is so very unique and interesting. It has stood the test of time as a permanent monument and is well worth the effort of moving it. In addition, as the Major Gifts Officer we originally worked with pointed out to me yesterday, once you promise a donor that they will be permanently recognized, it’s crucial to keep that promise, even if the existing building undergoes renovation.

We also did a moving job (no pun intended) on a Tribute we created in 2003 for George and Dolores Dore Eccles. The Tribute uses formal, contemporary photos of the donors etched into a carved crystal panel that floats over a second crystal panel, which shows a warm and inviting image of the couple dancing together when young.

This is one of my favorite Donor Tributes because it shows the two philanthropists as real people loving and enjoying their lives -– what a cheerful sight for any hospital passerby whose load may need lightening.

Note: The University of Utah Hospital’s new lobby is featured in a fascinating article in Medical Construction & Design magazine about the important role lobbies play in providing visitors with a warm and reassuring welcome. This is even more vital at the University of Utah Hospital, where some 10,000 people enter the lobby every day!

Designing Deep Meaning Into Donor Art

"Real art -- as opposed to decorative art -- touches the soul and reaches the viewer emotionally. It expresses energy, life force, and has deep spiritual meaning that can help the viewer transform pain and suffering to reach a higher state of consciousness."

--Jain Malkin, leading healthcare interior designer

When my team of graphic designers and I begin a carved crystal Donor Wall, we approach the work as artists. We are not looking to create something that is merely pretty. We are creating real art, so we start by focusing on the deep meaning of the piece, and we choose for images and symbols that will convey that meaning. Of course, we also add straightforward elements -- a formal appreciation statement, donor names and giving levels, and inspirational quotes.

But often the silent language of the symbolism speaks as loudly to viewers as the literal words we carve into the surface of the crystal. This is because we choose symbols and images rich with associations to our cultural and spiritual history.

“Christina Amri fell into a different category than any of the other donor recognition companies I’m familiar with. Her work is so creative. When I first saw her art, I realized you can have so much more than just names on a wall.”

--Mary Lou McCaa, University Hospital Foundation, University of Utah

A good example of how we design deep meaning into our art glass is our recent installation of a Donor Wall at Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula. Let me show you that mural and walk you through why we chose the images and symbols you’ll see.
The process began when Amy Goodman, curator for the hospital’s extraordinary art collection, CEO Steve Packer (far right), Foundation head Al Alvarez (far left), and hospital Board members engaged in a very thoughtful dialogue with designer Arlene Rhoden and myself as artists.

This and most of the other photos in this post are by the talented Gabriel Harber

At first glance, the 10-by-18-foot wall of carved and etched glass appears to be simply an image of Monterey Bay, its blue waters sparkling with sunlight and a snowy white egret lifting into flight on the left side of the mural. Had we been designing this wall for display in a private home, a scene of great natural beauty might have been enough. But to create a true work of art, there must be a deeper meaning.

In this case, our Donor Wall needed to symbolize the dedication, skill and vision of the hospital staff as well as the caring, vision and generosity of its donors. The wall, to be situated in the main lobby of the building, also needed to set a positive and reassuring tone for patients and their families entering the hospital.

Thus, we chose to portray the serene, light-dappled waters of Monterey Bay. Water symbolizes healing (the hospital’s role), it is life-giving, it nourishes our body and spirit. Water is an important symbol in most spiritual beliefs, Western and Eastern alike. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is called "the fountain of living waters." In addition, water symbolizes wisdom (a reference to the skill of the medical staff).

At Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, water is also a key feature of the physical environment. Ponds and fountains provide refreshing and relaxing elements inside and outside the buildings. For all of these reasons, we chose to use an expanse of water as the background for our Donor Wall.

The theme of water was picked up again in the deep V-carved quote about generosity from Maya Angelou, words which span nearly the full width of the mural:

When we cast our bread upon the waters,

we can presume that someone downstream
whose face we will never know
will benefit from our action,
as we who are downstream from another
will profit from that grantor’s gift.

Next we wanted to bring in symbols signifying the latest scientific discoveries to express the hospital’s joint mission of compassionate care with cutting-edge medicine. Across the foot of the mural we added short columns of bars, which are stylized images of DNA fragments that have been separated and sorted by size, an essential first step in a creating a genetic profile of an individual.

These floating bars morph beautifully into the patterns of light dappling the sunlit waters. And, because DNA contains our inherited genetic code, this imagery also symbolizes the passing of gifts from one generation to another -- from the hospital’s community leaders and generous donors of the past to those of the future. Lastly, these bars or boxes serve to mirror the distinctive decorative features built into the hospital by its original architect, the renowned Edward Durell Stone.

On the left of the mural, we added the image of an egret spreading its wings either to land or take flight. Incorporating a living creature into the scene brought life, warmth, and a sense of scale to the Donor Wall. It helps viewers connect with the entire mural. Symbolically, birds stand for hope, an important subconscious message for patients and their families. Birds also soar, and the upward movement of the bird portrayed here implies the soaring of thought, spirit and imagination.

Because the egret is shown at the moment it breaks free in flight, it symbolizes Community Hospital’s role as a courageous agent of change and leadership. Immediately to the right, a 23-karat-gold-leafed quotation from local poet Robinson Jeffers ties in with the image:

Lend me the stone strength of the past
and I will lend you the wings of the future,
for I have them.

These inspiring words connect Community Hospital’s tremendous legacy of philanthropy with the promise of an innovative and hope-filled future. They speak to the importance of blending a strong foundation with visionary innovation. (All the quotations we used are from local figures and were collaboratively chosen with help from the hospital foundation. They all “speak to each other” within the design and help form the “graphic landscape.”)

Last of all, and I confess it will be hard to show you here, is the symbolism in the colors and timing of the lighting system we programmed. Soft, multicolored LEDs illuminate the crystal panels in a subtle four-minute cycle patterned after the 24-hour cycle of a day. It begins with the pinks and yellows of sunrise, moves into the brighter light of day, then softens into the turquoise of sunset and the cobalt blue of nighttime. (If you click on the side-by-side image above, you can best see the colors shift in the curving lines at the upper right.)The lighting never shuts off, just as the work of Community Hospital never ends. Both continue day and night, providing healing, inspiration and solace for all who visit.

Al Alvarez, Chief Development Officer of the Community Hospital Foundation, says that patients, staff and volunteers alike are often found standing reverently in front of the wall, “as if they were in church.”

True art, unlike mere graphics, works on many levels. It communicates explicitly and implicitly. It thanks, honors, recognizes, and acclaims. It inspires and it comforts. It touches on our shared history and points toward a mutual and positive future. This is our goal for every work of Donor Art that we create.

P.S. Jain Malkin, whose quote I used at the beginning of this post, is working with us right now on an amazing project. Stay tuned to see what we do with the interactive Kettering Tribute at the beautiful new Schuster Heart Hospital in Kettering, Ohio.