March 22, 2024

New Foothills campus exhibit combines art, science and medicine

Student-led art transforms McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health bridgeway
Two women stand together in front of the McCaig Institute sign
Valerie Cates and Julianna Svishchuk Don Molyneaux

UCalgary graduate students Valerie Cates and Julianna Svishchuk turned inspiration into action, helping transform a space on Foothills campus into a colourful gathering spot for reflecting on art, science and medicine.

An artist herself, Cates’ research at the Cumming School of Medicine’s McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health uses art and design to improve patient understanding of adult spinal deformity surgery through illustrated patient decision aids. Partnering with Svishchuk, a fellow grad student pursuing a combined MD/PhD and working in the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, they founded the Artistic Research Translation in the Sciences (ARTS) Society last year.

The students started planning the transformation of a third floor bridgeway in McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health space between buildings on Foothills campus into an art gallery.

Over the course of more than a year, with support of then director Dr. Steven Boyd, PhD, and institute faculty and staff, the students selected paint colours, procured and installed multifunctional furniture, gathered artwork from students and staff and planned an opening showcase.

“The bridgeway is now a unique gallery space where art and science coexist. It is not only a platform to exhibit talented artists within the university community but also a means to foster greater understanding of science through art,” says Cates.

Inaugural exhibit explores our connectivity

The theme of the inaugural exhibition on March 8, what science means to you, showcased 17 pieces by artists across campus, from undergraduates to professors. The work explores numerous ideas including artificial intelligence in science, the connectivity of life, living with chronic pain and women’s health.

Speaking at the event, Svishchuk emphasized the resulting showcase was “driven by a love of art, science and medicine.” Cates added their aim was to "create something beautiful and thought-provoking that encourages people to think about research differently.”

Current McCaig Institute director Dr. Cheryl Barnabe, MD, said to the students during the opening, "Thank you for pushing it forward and creating a space that we all get to enjoy. What's unique about this space is that it truly embodies what our institute stands for, bringing together people from different disciplines, institutes and departments to create new understanding."

The plan is to continue the transformation through new exhibits, inspiring new perspectives through art. The gallery is located in the bridgeway between the fourth floor of the Heritage Medical Research Building and the third floor of the Health Research Innovation Centre on Foothills campus.

“This has been in the works for a long time,” says McCaig Institute researcher Dr. Antoine Dufour, PhD, who originally inspired and supported the students throughout the project. “In my head, I’ve been walking this space since the day I was recruited in 2016 and picturing something great here.”

"It’s inspiring to see how this vision came to life, how they were able to combine art, science and medicine,” adds the scientist, who hails from a family of artists.

Steven Boyd is a professor in the Department of Radiology at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and holds a joint position at the Schulich School of Engineering in the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. He holds the Bob and Nola Rintoul Chair in Bone and Joint Research and was the director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health from 2016-2023.

Cheryl Barnabe is a professor in the departments of Medicine and Community Health Sciences at the CSM. She is the director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health. She holds the Arthur J.E. Child Chair in Rheumatology Research, McCaig Chair in Bone and Joint Health and the Canada Research Chair, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases

Antoine Dufour is an associate professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology at the CSM. He also directs the Southern Alberta Mass Spectrometry core facility. His research focuses on proteomics, N-terminomics, and protease biology. He is a member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, The Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.