Carl N. Platou Emergency Center Features Artwork for Peace and Comfort

Sculpture and photography found at Fairview Southdale Hospital.
Photo by Kimberly Narveson

Even if you haven’t visited the Fairview Southdale Emergency Department lately (thank goodness), anyone who’s driven past the hospital on Highway 62 knows a major addition and renovation has occurred. Inside you’ll discover a uniquely patient-friendly design including original artwork and photography intended to bring peace and comfort to patients and families.

The Carl N. Platou Emergency Center was dedicated a little over a year ago, commemorating a universally celebrated administrator who was instrumental in the development of the Fairview Hospital system. Thanks to family, friends and business associates, parts of Platou’s legacy, history, and even humor are integral to a sculpture just inside the entrance to the new center. The piece is reminiscent of a yellow daisy (one of Platou’s favorite flowers) and surrounded by cool greens and blues of water. Artist Allison Luedtke says these elements, as well as other insights gained during planning sessions with Carl’s daughter Nancy Platou Steinke and others, inspired the piece.

Embedded in the laminated glass of the sculpture, says Luedtke, are mementos of Platou’s life: copies of letters he wrote from abroad during World War II; musical notations representing his love of the Minnesota Orchestra; a footprint from one of the boots he wore during World War II; even some fibers from the favorite bathrobe he often wore in the car while making early-morning visits to the homes of his grandchildren. “The medium of laminated glass is unique,” says Luedtke, “and uniquely suited to the embedding of materials such as those which family and friends wanted included in the memorial.” Laminated glass is particularly useful for document preservation, as it is UV resistant, and is also safe to use in hospitals. Luedtke is one of the few artists in the country using laminated glass to this extent. Other installations can be found in hospitals near (Children’s in Minneapolis, Woodwinds in Woodbury) and far (Broadmoor Medical Center in Colorado Springs).

A photography exhibit featuring work from winners of a contest sponsored and judged by an emergency center team of physicians, nurses, emergency department technicians and a health unit coordinator is located in the center’s patient treatment room hallways. There, in small alcoves designed to seat visitors and in a separate, dedicated room, are framed and matted nature photographs, all local in subject matter and all taken by Fairview Southdale Hospital employees. The contest received more than 100 entries, says hospital communications manager Melissa Gilman, who adds that the decision was made to display each winning photographer’s name and department as a reflection of the team nature of hospital work.

Maribeth Woitas, director of emergency and trauma services, adds that “the seating alcoves were designed as a place where family members and friends of emergency service patients can step out of the room for a moment. We were moving into our beautiful new emergency department and we wanted to create some community familiarity as well as a feeling of peace. We knew exactly which photos we wanted in each space.” The use of emergency department members to select the winning photos, plus soliciting the photos from hospital staff, gave everyone a feeling of ownership and pride.

Photographic subjects range from landscapes to birds to formal and informal gardens. Marie Odenbrett, development officer with the Fairview Foundation, submitted a photo of a flower taken at Centennial Lakes Park in Edina. It was chosen for display in the Willow Room, which Woitas describes as a place for larger support groups to congregate but also where family and friends can be present, away from ubiquitous bright lights and commotion. “I thought it as an amazing honor to have my photo placed in the Willow Room,” says Odenbrett. While the philanthropic Fairview Foundation helped raise the funds for the new emergency department, “I don’t get to work in the space every day,” Odenbrett says. “But now I feel I have an ongoing presence there.”

Photos by Aarathi Gangadhara (left) and Laura Howard (right).