Employee art exhibition is back and better than ever

November 17, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

This year’s Gifts of Art Employee Art Exhibition is unlike any other. That’s because after a year hiatus due to COVID-19, the gallery of artwork created by Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and family members is back — this time in both an in-person and online form.

That provides access to the show for those who are still restricted from coming to campus (and many have taken advantage, as an incredible 658 votes were cast online for the People’s Choice Award during the voting process).

What didn’t change this year? The fact that colleagues are showing off their incredible creativity and talents.

Woman in blue jacket holds two ribbons in front of photo mosaics.
Cecile Hollinshead, PA-C, with her two awards.

A focus on the front line

This year, physician assistant Cecile Hollinshead took home two of the exhibition’s most coveted prizes — the People’s Choice Award and Best in Show. And she did it with artwork that shined a light on those who have been front-and-center during the pandemic.

Hollinshead’s “Michigan Medicine Front-line Heroes” photo collages are made up of images she took of faculty and staff working in the adult and children’s emergency departments at the height of the pandemic.

“I am honored and humbled by the support and recognition for this work,” said Hollinshead, who considers herself a hobbyist photographer who has practiced at her craft for the past 20 years.

“This was intended to be a one-day project at the beginning of the pandemic,” she continued. “It started with photos of 64 coworkers, focusing on their eyes. That’s because at the time, we were learning just how much we usually use the rest of our face to communicate since our mouths were covered by masks.”

Hollinshead then superimposed a large number of the photos over an individual’s picture, creating her award-winning mosaics.

“At the time, our motto was ‘We are in this together,’ and creating these pieces of art just exemplified that team effort,” Hollinshead said. “It all just made sense.”

‘This is so very powerful’

The striking pieces have made quite an impression on those who have seen them.

“This is so very powerful,” started one comment from a Michigan Medicine employee. “The images [show so many of the] front-line staff who served, sacrificed and provided amazing care each and every day — and especially in those challenging and emotionally difficult times. It makes me even more grateful for them.”

Hollinshead’s work also impacted those she photographed.

“Cecile was amazing at capturing our staff during the pandemic,” said one emergency team member. “She increased the morale in the department and reminded everyone that we work as a team and we are going to make it through this together.”

Hollinshead has heard similar comments from her colleagues.

“Every person has noted that their mosaic photo meant so much to them — it created something positive when we all needed it.”

More eye-catching work

Another piece took inspiration from the ongoing pandemic challenges — and elicits emotions from viewers.

“COVID,” a charcoal drawing by Lisa Reber, a research fellow with Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, depicts a distraught individual seated in a chair.

“This caught my eye immediately because it captures how we all felt in 2020,” said one front-line employee who saw the piece. “Seeing this drawing is not easy, but it is truthful.”

Another employee was also touched by the artwork: “This captures something in me that draws out my emotions in a way that even surprised myself. Thank you for creating it.”

This year’s winners

In all, 65 pieces of art were submitted for this year’s exhibition. The youngest artist was 14 years old and the oldest was 94.

The juror of the 2021 exhibition was Nan Plummer. She was executive director of Artrain, assistant director for programs and associate director of the Museum Practice Program at U-M Museum of Art, head of education at Toledo Museum of Art and executive director of the Arkansas Arts Center. Plummer is currently executive director of the Treeline Conservancy in Ann Arbor and owner of 22 North Gallery in Ypsilanti.

Plummer was assisted by Maggie Spencer, director of operations at Riverside Arts Center and assistant curator at 22 North Gallery.

If you haven’t seen this year’s exhibition, don’t worry, there’s still time! The in-person show will be on display through Dec. 3 in the Gifts of Art Gallery on the first floor of the Taubman Health Center (South Lobby).

You can also check the pieces out online and a slideshow of the winners above.

Here is a full rundown of this year’s winners:


Winner: Teamwork: Strength in Numbers by Pam Householder, Taubman General Medicine Clinic
Honorable Mention: Untitled by Dawn Kleindorfer, neurology

Drawing & Pastel

Winner: Afternoon on an Island by Miwa Kitahata, wife of Jean-Marc Fontaine, biological chemistry
Honorable Mention: The Protector by Caleah Vella, granddaughter of April Malis, cardiac surgery

Collage & Mixed Media:

Winner: Art is Therapy by Merideth Sauvé, Nursing Clerical Services

Black & White Photography

Winner: Burton Memorial Tower by Thomas Rode, School of Kinesiology

Color Photography

Winner: Blue Heron over My Shoulder by Sandra Hess, quality analytics
Honorable Mention: Sandbox by Cathy Enochs, pediatric pulmonology

Fiber Arts

Winner: Pandemic by Nan Weber, CVC 3rd floor clinic
Honorable Mention: The Village by Karen L. Scanlon, School of Nursing

Watercolor Painting

Winner: Turning 40 by Megan E. B. Foldenauer, neurosurgery
Honorable Mention: Sunset over Malta by Paul Farr, father of Will Farr, ambulatory rehab and speech language pathology

Ceramics & Glasswork

Winner: Deco Vases by Julianne Walsh, med school facilities
Honorable Mention: Sisters (Proud, Melancholy & Fearless) by Jean-Marc Fontaine, biological chemistry

Sculpture & Assemblage

Winner: Jurassic Park Mailbox by Tamara Havermahl, cell and developmental biology
Honorable Mention: University of Michigan Nutcracker by Jane F. Riebe-Rodgers, pediatric trauma

People’s Choice Award: Michigan Medicine Front-line Heroes by Cecille Hollinshead, Emergency Department

Best in Show: Michigan Medicine Front-line Heroes by Cecille Hollinshead, Emergency Department