HOHENFELS, Germany -- The Hohenfels Health Clinic recently unveiled its spectacular new art collection featuring original pieces by a group of 23 talented artists who all share one thing in common. They are Hohenfels Middle/High School students.
When Lt. Col Christopher J. David, U.S. Army Health Clinic Hohenfels commander, arrived in Hohenfels, the clinic was undergoing major renovations. Not until the construction was complete did David realize what was missing.
"I just assumed that decorating was included, and unfortunately it wasn't," said David. "So we had to figure something out to make it look less institutional."
David turned to Michele Mihanovich-Franz, HMHS art teacher.
"I am very appreciative of Lt. Col. David bringing in the art department," said Mihanovich-Franz. "I mean, he could have used photographs, but his concept of actual original work for an original collection that is available for the community is a great advocacy for the arts."
David said the idea came to him while watching the popular comedy television show, "The Big Bang Theory."
David explained that the average person visits the clinic five times a year for an appointment that lasts roughly 20 minutes.
"So, collectively, the average person only spends 100 minutes a year on their health care," David said, pointing out that there are 525,600 minutes per year.
In keeping with Army medicine's transformation from a health care system to a system for health, which consists of a more preventative focus, David asked himself how he could influence people to be more proactive with their health.
"And Sheldon on 'The Big Bang Theory' said basically, if you want to impact a problem you have to attack it at the youth level," said David.
Using a graph that charts the 100 minutes of health care versus the 525,600 minutes in a year, David showed the HMHS art students what amounts to a large empty circle.
"So, what I asked the kids to do was make that white space their 'life space,'" David said.
To help stimulate their imaginations, David presented a slide show for the students highlighting the complexity of today's Army medicine, from veterinarians inspecting food to an actual ear being grown from a patient's own cells.
"One of the challenges is that we don't really have a definition of health," David said. "So we use the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness model which looks at the five dimensions of physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual."
Mihanovich-Franz said that those dimensions were the only parameters placed on the students, and otherwise they were given 'carte blanche' in creating their work.
"Art tells a story and these kids all have their own story to tell in their 'life space,'" she said.
Unfortunately, the clinic only had so much room, and not every student could participate. Mihanovich-Franz had to choose only two classes.
"I selected my middle school class because they only get me for one semester and being in a permanent collection is a great identity building experience for them," she said. "I also chose one of my advanced drawing classes."
The results are inspiring and available for the community to view down the clinic's central hall. Work ranged from portraits of organs, a collage of faces, healthy activities and even the innermost workings of the mind.
"There are some really unique projects," said David.
The art was unveiled at an opening ceremony featuring the artists discussing the meaning behind each piece to the gathered crowd of clinic staff, HMHS administration, ACS workers, and proud parents.
Sophomore Lilian Lucero created a charcoal drawing of a woman clearly in mental distress that was so powerful, David admitted he was somewhat alarmed at first viewing.
"My 'Life Space' is about the stress that everybody goes through during everyday life. Careers, school, etcetera, can cause stress and when asked how you are people always say, "Me, I'm fine" even if they are really screaming on the inside," said Lucero.
Ashley Herndon, also a sophomore, drew a woman sitting on a globe with her hair flowing down into the earth like roots.
"My 'Life Space' represents women taking control of their space by making decisions at the side of the doctor that will cause them to grow as a healthy person. I did not paint her face and chose her back because I did not want her to represent one specific person, rather, everyone in the world," Herndon explained.
David and Mihanovich-Franz are discussing plans for adding more artwork in the coming years.
"These kids get to go back to America as internationally exhibiting artists," said Mihanovich-Franz. "They will always remember this."