Donor Art That Delights a Diverse Audience

Amri-nationwise super closeup
How do you design a Donor Wall to please a hospital's sophisticated philanthropist-Donors that will also entertain and divert the children who come there for treatment?


Hummingbird resizedOur answer was to incorporate 3-D layers of child-pleasing elements into a 26-foot-long museum-like diorama that we hand-carved and hand-etched into crystal.

The wall is filled with life-size fluttering butterflies, tiny creatures for kids to discover, and leaves whirled by the wind, all of which are illuminated with warm programmed LEDs that shift colors and patterns at the walking pace of passersby. These shifts make the leaves appear to dance and the butterflies fly across the full width of the wall.

Our dynamic “moving” wall at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus also serves as a wayfinding icon that keeps hundreds of passersby each hour moving in the correct circulation pattern on a magical "Forest Path" (an inlaid swirling floor design) toward their destinations and the elevators.


Brad Feinknopf for Nationwide Children's Hospital

Besides pleasing their big donors and delighting their young patients, Nationwide Children's asked us to create a piece that would integrate into their highly imaginative "Magic Forest" environment, created by renowned museum-exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum.

Playful, Applebaum-designed images from nature were printed on walls, constructed in 3-D, and carved from solid wood. An interactive play area features two-story trees and oversize whimsical animals carved by merry-go-round artisans.

We worked with the interior designers, hospital staff, and their very "hands-on" lead donor, Abigail Wexner, to continue their theme, philanthropic branding, WELCOME messaging, dimensionality, and warm glowing color palette in our Donor Wall.

Colored LEDs in shades of warm white, pale pink, and amber are mounted above and below the four layers of art and glass panels. When edge-lit, glass acts like a fiber optic, carrying the color through the 1/2" thick crystal panels and making the art elements “pop” like a 3-D hologram.


Brad Feinknopf for Nationwide Children's Hospital

We achieved the dimensionality by creating a deep curved architectural surround to hold four layers of dynamic images, including dewdrops on the grasses, butterflies (Nationwide's new logo), chrysalises, snails, bees, flowers, and hummingbirds. In addition, on the top layer of the bevel-edged crystal, dedication text and donor names float in columns on every panel. All texts are carved in deep, V-cut monument-style letterforms.

Butterfly resizedMany weeks of careful lighting engineering and intricate programming with electronics engineer Tim Feldman were spent in the dark hours of the night to achieve the mood of the forest and the playful movements of each fluttering butterfly and swirling leaf in the glowing crystal.

It was very satisfying to create a light-filled installation that will warmly greet children and their anxious families and set a positive mood for the care to come.

We also loved continuing our working relationship of many years with this virtual city of caregivers (more than 5,000 on staff), having previously designed and fabricated the celebration wall (depicting the bright blue and gold collision of subatomic particles) in their Research Institute and the innovative hand-painted "circus horse" (below) for their Center for Child and Family Advocacy.


A Time to Reflect and Renew

Next week on Monday, July 21 we begin our Studio’s annual summer closure, a time for us to rest, renew, refresh, and think deeply about the meaning of what we do. Sometimes in the rush of day-to-day deadlines -- especially right now when we just wrapped up two big projects and completed a revamp of our website -- we have to stay focused on the details to get everything done. 

But when we have a chance to step back and breathe, we always remember the big picture. Let me tell you a story that speaks to this.

Watercolor of St. Paul’s Cathedral by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city and reduced its venerable Old St. Paul’s Cathedral to charred timber and rubble. The famous architect Sir Christopher Wren was hired to design a new church. After many plans and revisions, construction finally began in 1677. Thomas Strong, Wren's master stonemason, laid the first stone of the new cathedral.

Christopher Wren’s plans for the dome of St. Paul’s

One day Sir Christopher was surveying the progress the men were making. He stopped at one stonecutter and asked him what he was doing.

“I’m cutting blocks of stone,” the man said, a bit testily. “Each one the same as the next. And the next. And the next. Every bloody stone just exactly the same.”

Sir Christopher wisely moved on. He approached a second stonecutter and asked the man what he was doing. “Why, I’m earning a living to feed my family,” he replied, apparently puzzled that anyone, least of all the boss, should need to ask.

Then Sir Christopher spotted a third stonecutter, very intent on his work. “What are you doing, good sir?” asked the architect.

The man looked up at him. He was covered with stone dust and his hands were heavily callused. He looked tired, but he looked satisfied, too.

“I am building a monument to the glory of God,” he said.

Photos at left by Gabriel Harber

The joy and satisfaction we take in our work depends in large part on the context in which we hold that work. For me, designing and carving architectural art glass is not just about sandblasting tiny lines and curves into panels of crystal, or even about running a successful small business in a field I love.

It’s about creating timeless works of art that deeply honor the donors, institutions and staff members who are making vital and heartfelt contributions toward the betterment of our world. I myself feel honored to be a part of their endeavors.

image from that’s what I’ll be thinking about in the coming three weeks as I rest, relax and refresh my energies for an exciting autumn in the Studio. We'll be back at work on Monday, August 11, ready to hear about your new projects!

P.S. I hope you'll enjoy browsing through our new site to see what we've been up to! Besides being a wonderful catalogue of our past projects, the message that this new site expresses is our deep commitment to timeless architectural art. 
New home page of website