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Art and Medicine Do Indeed Mix

Dan Harrington (right) with some of Morgan’s work on display.

by Gene Marrano

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute kicked off its Arts in Medicine program with an inaugural show, now on display at 2 Riverside Drive. Local professional and student artists submitted works that are on display in galleries on the first and second floor, on the medical school side of the building. More than 50 pieces from 40 local artists are part of the first Arts in Medicine show. A new exhibit is planned about every four months.

It’s also one way to draw the general public into the Virginia Tech Carilion campus on South Jefferson. Oil painter Helen Hubler mingled with the public at the opening reception last week, where her piece, “He Has No Hair” was on display. “It’s great to have the opportunity to show your work [as] a local artist,” said Hubler. “It’s hard to find venues. This is a beautiful building and they have all these bare walls. We’re all glad to be here.”

One of the major attractions was a corner devoted to artwork from the late Morgan Harrington, a Northside graduate and Virginia Tech student who was murdered almost two years ago after she left a concert in Charlottesville. Various pieces of art that Morgan had created from an early age and up demonstrated that she had considerable talent in a number of genres.

Her father Dan Harrington, also the Vice President for Medical Education at Carilion, was on hand to talk to people about his daughter’s artistic talent. “Morgan took after her mom [Gil], she certainly didn’t take after me,” said Harrington. “She was driven, like artists are.”

The works on display are mainly from Morgan’s high school days; her father likes her self-portrait in particular. “She was really talented in many ways,” said Harrington, who also appreciates that Roanokers will have a chance to see the building itself when they come to view the art.

Medical school students also had a chance to see it before their semester ended. “They really enjoyed it,” said Harrington. His daughter spent part of one summer working at the VTC Medical School in its early days, so she has a connection to the facility. “It was life changing [for her],” said Harrington “I think Morgan really saw what the future could hold.”

Virginia Tech professor Jane Lillian Vance (Department of Religion & Culture) was on hand as well with her Buddhist-inspired pieces. She taught Morgan Harrington and delivered an address when her late student was awarded an honorary degree several weeks ago. Harrington would have been a senior this spring. “Like Morgan’s, our voices will refuse to die.  And nothing gives honor like voice,” said Vance during her prepared remarks. “It was really an honor to speak about Morgan, I knew her well – we were both artists,” said Vance at the VTC show opening. “Morgan was only 20 but she was already thinking about culture.” Harrington’s satiric take on botox treatments was one example. “She had massive talent,” said Vance.

“Of course she was destined to love,” continued Vance during her commencement address (she also has a gallery in downtown Roanoke.) “But Morgan was already profound, humble, and craftsman-like.  She was destined to travel, to heal, to teach.  She was benevolent.  Her nature, the depth that characterized her, was un-self-centered.  Morgan had quickened.  She was going to help people.  Already, Morgan understood compassion …Morgan had that DEEP kind of beauty.  She had caught the scent of happiness, and she was on its secret trail.”

Artist Suzun Hughes, who also has a piece on display at the VTC Medical School and Research Institute, invites art patrons to another event this Friday’s Art by Night (5-9pm). Roanoke born West Coast Painter and Art Car Artist Kelly Lyles will exhibit her “sweetly nostalgic installation Candyland,” which is based on the board game.

In the 1950’s, Lyles’ mom Beverlie had a regular radio show on Salem’s WBLU station, and a weekly column in the Salem Times Register. Lyles’ parents were also Showtimers, a Salem theatre founded in 1951. Lyles Stepmother Kathy hosted a show called Panorama on WDBJ (a CBS affiliate) for 10 years until 1976.

The Candyland installation contains over 50 small portraits of sugary treats from all over the world, and is shown with a 12 x 15 foot hand-painted canvas floor cloth of the popular Milton Bradley board game for children originally created over 70 years ago.


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