Visual artist Ann Chamberlain collaborated with the patients, families, and staff of the Comprehensive Cancer Center (now The Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center) at the University of California, San Francisco/Mount Zion Medical Center to create a beautiful, contemplative garden within a bustling medical environment. At the project’s outset, Chamberlain, a cancer survivor, wrote: “We believe there is value and meaning to creating sites of solace and renewal for everyone who lives and passes through the surrounding urban environment. This is particularly true for those in a hospital setting who are undergoing health crises.”
Chamberlain’s closest partner among the hospital participants was Dr. Laura Esserman, who had been her surgeon. She also worked closely with landscape architect Katsy Swan and ceramists Kenyon Lewis, Martha Heavenston, and Cenri Nojima. Over the course of five years, hundreds of people–hospital staff, patients, and family members–contributed and responded to design ideas, planted seeds and plants, recorded their cancer stories, and contributed to a striking, tile-lined hallway leading and adjacent to the garden site.
The original plan would have led to a completed garden in spring 1996. However, UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Center received major funding for construction that year, interrupting the garden’s development. However, the initial work on the “Healing Garden” influenced the building’s redesign and the garden—once an abandoned concrete courtyard—become the building’s centerpiece.
Lead artist Ann Chamberlain brought to the project extensive experience with public art commissions, the design and use of public spaces, cross-cultural expressions of storytelling and its power, and experience working with society’s “unheard”—those disadvantaged by poverty, homelessness, crime, and chemical dependencies.
The mission of UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Center is to provide the very highest quality medical research, patient care, and physician-scientist training to the Northern California region and beyond.