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Vital Signs

Tile construction beautifies Chilcott Auditorium stairwell

AGodzilla-like creature opens its large, toothy mouth. Nearby, streaks of light from a blazing sun bounce off a rocky landscape. These are just two examples of 104 beautifully detailed clay tiles made by DMS students, faculty, and staff. The tiles have been assembled into a collage- like work of art that was recently mounted in the stairwell of Chilcott Auditorium on DMS's Hanover campus.

The idea for the project came about when Elizabeth Eisenhardt, now a third-year student, met Naj Wikoff, director of the Healing and the Arts Project at DMS's Koop Institute. They wanted to reinforce the presence of the arts and beautify the Medical School's facilities. They decided on a group tile-making project as their first effort, seeing it as a perfect way to involve lots of people. Taking a simple carving tool and creating an image in a square of wet clay is also fairly easy to teach.

Clay: At tile-making workshops in the DMS Student Lounge, they invited passers-by to come in and render something important to them—nature scenes, faces, hobbies, or cultural icons. Eisenhardt's passion is ballet (she danced professionally before medical school), so her tile has a silhouette of a leaping ballerina.

"Naj was a great teacher," says second- year student Laura Simon, who took over the project this year and oversaw the

installation. "A lot of students started off saying, 'I don't know how to do this. I don't know anything about art.' But working with clay is such a great medium that they started using their hands and getting into it." Simon's tile features a bright sun against an impressionistic landscape. "Sitting in the lounge with friends and classmates really does inspire you and gives you a sense of community," she says. "This made me think of a sun."

The tiles were arranged as a single, dramatic work with two large parts—a beige diamond and a blue diamond—each made up of many distinct, small parts.

From the left, tile artists Simon, Wikoff, and Eisenhardt.

Rather like the big institution that the construction now beautifies.

Matthew C. Wiencke

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