Employee Art Showcased Around Duke

Annual exhibit brings art to the walls of Duke Medicine and Perkins Library

Mark Blanchard of Duke Clinical Engineering received the
Mark Blanchard of Duke Clinical Engineering received the "Best of Show" award for his photograph titled "Curb Appeal." Photo by April Dudash

When Mark Blanchard visited Pennsylvania on Duke business this spring, he took his point-and-shoot camera to capture falling cherry blossoms. Coming across a cluster of broken beer bottle glass, cigarette butts and pink blossoms by the curb, he snapped a photo.

Months later, the image, which he titled “Curb Appeal,” has won “Best of Show” at the Duke Employee Art Show. Blanchard was recognized last week at an awards ceremony, and a yellow ribbon was pinned next to his framed photograph hanging in an Arts & Health at Duke gallery in Duke Hospital.

“It’s a real neat opportunity to work in a place that emphasizes a lot of art for the patients,” said Blanchard, a biomedical equipment technician with Duke Clinical Engineering. “I’m glad to be a part of it and glad it exists.”

Arts & Health at Duke, which brings literary, performing and visual arts to patients and hospital employees, collected 104 submissions for this year’s Duke Employee Art Show. Winners represent five categories: youth, teen, amateur, intermediate and professional.

Artwork by employees and their immediate family members, as well as volunteers and retirees, is on display to Sept. 30 at the Arts & Health at Duke galleries in the Duke Hospital concourse near the Searle Center, the Eye Center connector gallery, Clinic 1D display area and student wall in Perkins Library.

“There’s a lot of energy,” said Jennifer Collins-Mancour, a visual arts contractor with Arts & Health at Duke. “It’s amazing to see the talent. Quite honestly, they have regular jobs, but they’re doing this on the side. They have something they love to do that lets them relax and have an outlet.”

Artwork included various mediums, from sculptures to paintings, and works such as a framed, abstract photograph of Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a drawing of Wonder Woman holding her lasso and elephant sculpture with butterfly ears.

Jesse DeGraff, an operations manager with Duke Lab Animal Resources, submitted a photograph, titled “Dry Lake,” of Jordan Lake hit by drought. He took the photo in 2010 using infrared photography and turned the trees in his piece white.

DeGraff, who volunteered for Arts & Health at Duke and took photos of all the Art Show submissions, has been taking photos for about 30 years. He remembers the cross-country trip he took as a teen with his family, when his interest in photography blossomed as they filled 60 rolls of film and visited national parks.

“It’s the only artistic expression I have. I can’t draw. I can’t paint,” DeGraff said. “You can take 10 photographers to the same subject and they all see things differently. All their photos are different, different angles, different lights, so it’s a unique expression.”

Also on display is the work of Rayanthony Taylor, a tech II in Duke Sterile Processing, who began drawing cartoons at a young age. His piece, “Trying Times,” is a  portrait of an African-American man in pencil. The drawing, Taylor said, is modeled after a homeless individual Taylor met years ago. Taylor said he wanted to capture the hope that comes with reaching a low point in life.

“That’s why I feel God gave me talent, for others to see,” Taylor said. “They can get a different perspective of things. Artists are the ones that decorate the whole world.”