A couple of Saturdays ago the topic of the Lowell Walks tour was Lowell Artists, Past and Present. We visited several galleries and the Whistler House Museum of Art but the highlight of the tour for me, at least, was a visit to the City Council chambers at Lowell City Hall. I’d been there hundreds of times before; probably a dozen since its recent redo by Sean Harmon and the local art community. But since a city council meeting is not conducive to appreciating art, I’d never really noticed the great paintings by local artists that now hang in the chamber. During our Saturday morning tour, however, we had time to step within the council enclosure and linger in front of the paintings. As great as galleries and museums are, I realized there is something special about viewing works of art in other settings.
And so it was that when the opportunity arose this week to pay a visit to the Lowell Community Health Center for a close-up view of the original works of art displayed throughout that very large facility in a former mill building on Jackson Street, I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t disappointed.
ArtUp is an innovative, collaborative program between the Lowell art community and the Lowell Community Health Center. Local artists submit their work for selection to the program. After selection by a jury, the paintings are hung throughout the Health Center, in the halls, in the waiting rooms, in the lobby, all over. Individual donors are then invited to purchase the paintings, not as their own possessions, but as donations to the Community Health Center. Half of the price goes to the artist; half goes to the Health Center. The generosity of the donor is recognized by a plaque placed adjacent to the painting.
This is truly a brilliant program. The artists derive some income and the Health Center gains a wonderful collection of paintings that can be viewed, admired, and appreciated by patients, employees and visitors for years to come. I have to believe that the intangible benefits of these paintings in reducing the anxiety of patients waiting to see the doctor have to be substantial. (Perhaps the reason the Lowell city councilors have been so agreeable at their meetings this term is the calming effect of the artwork that surrounds them).
I saw a number of plaques alongside paintings, but plenty of terrific works are still available. Purchasing and donating a painting helps local artists and helps Lowell Community Health Center, a great organization doing great work in our midst. Please check out the ArtUp section of the website of the Lowell Community Health Center to see the paintings that are still available.