SUMMIT, NJ - Simona Graniero, a surgical nurse at Overlook Medical Center, held the rubber comb cautiously over the bit of paint that artist J. Kenneth Leap had just smeared on the pane of glass in front of her.
“I don’t want to mess it up,” Graniero said.
“No one can mess up,” Leap assured her as she ran the teeth of the soft comb through the paint, adding her own personal touch to what will ultimately be a piece of art that will adorn Overlook Medical Center, reflecting the collaboration of Leap, and more than 100 hospital patients, staff and visitors.
Leap, a recognized artist for his work in architectural stained glass, is Atlantic Health System’s third annual 'Artist in Residence', a program that brings a noted artist to guide the community at each of the organization’s hospitals to create works of art. The program is a collaboration between Atlantic Health System’s Healing Arts Program and Morris Arts. Starting at Overlook Medical Center, Leap will travel to Morristown, Newton, Chilton and Hackettstown medical centers.
“The practice of creating art builds a sense of community among the patients, staff and local community of each medical center,” said Maria Regina Lupo, manager of Healing Arts and a registered art therapist for Atlantic Health System. “We are proud to have an artist of Kenneth’s caliber to guide this amazing collaborative effort.”
That collaboration led Kelly Williams, who works at Overlook’s central access department, to encourage Lucy Davis, a patient from Orange, to participate.
“Let’s do one together,” Williams said.
Leap, whose work includes a stained glass skylight illustrating the history of New Jersey for the Annex of the State House in Trenton, will create mandalas for each hospital utilizing the pieces of glass decorated by the community. The glass pieces will be mounted against a mirror featuring the etched signatures of everyone who has made their mark on the work.
For medical records specialist Ivy Benjamin, that mark didn’t end with the artist tools. Intrigued by the pattern of Benjamin’s dress, he painted the design by hand with a brush.
“I don’t have a stamp of that,” Leap noted.
Kenneth Cole, director, planned giving and finance for the Overlook Foundation, took a studious approach to his contribution to the piece, asking Ania Lesiak, a member of Atlantic Health System’s Healing Arts team, how best to apply the paint and then use the rubber comb, an artist’s tool. His hand then carefully wiggled out a unique design upon the glass.
For Leap, who works not only as an artist but also an educator, the program represented an opportunity to both teach and learn.
“I feel very passionate about sharing my knowledge of glass with people. When I was approached by the Morris Arts council and the Healing Arts program I felt really privileged to have that opportunity to work with the public,” Leap said.
“The challenge for me is I don’t usually work with a large community where the people are working hands-on with the piece. I usually interpret something for the community and come up with my own vision. For this project, I’ve been able to do my job as an educator but also as a coach to help people get over that reluctance to have any kind of creative expression,” Leap noted.