Interfaith uses art, medicine to promote healing

Lorenza Steel Jr. and his daughters Zaire, 8 years, and Ashante, 6 years.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

Interfaith Medical Center on Atlantic Avenue in Crown Heights, which was created in 1983 through the merging of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and Jewish Hospital Medical Center, had a period of pulling and swaying between those who advocated for closure and those who wanted to keep the institution open. Its foundation, at times, was shaken to the core by never ending dim forecast.

And then it happened! With a court order to stay open and the installation of new leadership, the once toxic environment has been replaced by smiles and a willingness to work in collaboration with the community and its leaders. Melanis L. Cygannowski, Interfaith’s chief restructuring officer and her team have been steadily creating a vibrant community hospital and with the art exhibit ceremony on Friday, Sept. 19, staff, patients and visitors were introduced to a new and bold strategy of using art to enhance quality health care for the community.

An oasis of lights illuminate the lobby and waiting area, which have now come alive with the vibrant Art work of professional local Artist. It is believed that art forces us to think and it can help solve one’s intimate and ordinary dilemmas. It can provide powerful solutions as we ask ordinary questions, and to this end, Interfaith used a series of art work across all genres which can be viewed as tools viable for the resolution of difficult issues in an individual’s life.

Bed-Stuy’s native renowned artist Joseph Grant along with other African American artists A.Badi, Annie EE and Bryan Laford brought some of their most elegant pieces to be placed permanently at Interfaith. This groundbreaking event unfolded in an evening of splendor and tantalizing conversations as each community resident brought his or her own interpretation to each piece of work. The young and talented master musician Hasani Arthur skillfully played his trumpet in the background to create the perfect ambiance.

Each artist told a story of his journey from obscurity to fame. They all survived educational environments in which Black artist are in the minority and with their acquired fame they have chosen to support their community and share their talents with those who enter Interfaith to be cared for or visiting the sick.

Councilman Robert Cornegy shared in the excitement of the new venture. He was glad to see the “hospital reflect the community and become an extended part of the community through the arts and culture.” “The event was an opportunity to marry the community back to the hospital. The staff is excited. Administration wants to change the image and now that the staff has it in their belly it will generate a feeling of inclusion the by-product of which cannot be measured,” he said.

Dr. Peter Nnaemeka, surgeon, said that “the hospital went through a period of stagnation, but the new leadership crew brings enthusiasm, a desire to listen and act. There is new energy and we excel.” Lorenza Steel Jr. and his young daughters Zaire and Ashante, who reside in Long Island came to meet the artists and view the exhibit. Zaire said she likes art because “it calms me down.” This is exactly the type of medical effect Interfaith hopes this permanent art exhibit will have on all those who pass through its doors.

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