Phyllis Beattie's carefully crafted bronze sculptures aren't hard to miss throughout the Mile High City, but it's her piece located at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center, entitled Caring Hands, that means the most to her.
She calls it her identity piece, because it holds so many personal touches -- including her own family member's names subtly included on the statues' uniforms. However, the most significant personal touch of all in the life-size installation is the meaning it tells and the feeling Beattie hopes it evokes for anyone who sees it.
"It's a feel-good sculpture, when I look at it, I think it should bring a smile," Beattie says. "It's supposed to see how people get along, and even though they have to come to the hospital, there are some happy moments."
Caring Hands was installed at the hospital in 1992, when Presbyterian/St. Luke's first joined forces. The two arches joining at the top in the piece symbolize the two hospitals coming together.
Beattie says she was surprised to have gotten the honor to create the installation at the time, and was even more surprised that the hospital administrators at the time liked her idea more than their own about what the installation should look like.
She says they originally wanted something with wildlife, but Beattie felt the piece should convey more human emotions.
"Why they listened to me, I don't know," she joked.
Beattie says she was grateful to be able to express herself in an installation located at a place so significant in her own life -- Beattie was even born at the hospital, and over the years, she has had several surgeries there.
"We're good friends," she laughed about her relationship with the hospital.
The medical center's operations director, Mike Guthrie, agrees.
"To have Phylliss be born here and share her art and her craft, to continue to further the story and the legacy of the hospital is very important to us," Guthrie said.
When the hospital was recently remodeled, Guthrie says administrators took great care to make sure the installation was preserved. It still stands prominently in the front driveway of the medical center campus.
Beattie has created nearly 50 other works during her 37-year career. She has sculptures at other hospitals in Denver, another in Cherry Creek, and one in the front entrance of the Denver Country Club, just to name a few.
It's a 19-step process to create her sculptures, and they all begin with clay, wires, and some tin foil. Her piece at Presbyterian/St. Luke's took 18 months to create.
Among other Denver public art installations, Beattie's Caring Hands was included in the Art Inventories Catalog for the Smithsonian. See a link to her Smithsonian learning lab feature by clicking here.
She says every piece she has created means something, but at the end of the day, they all signify her success in an industry dominated by men.
Get to know Beattie and she'll tell you the key to her success is not taking herself too seriously, and always finding the humor in things.
It's that humble personality that shines through for every patron and patient that walks by her work at Presbyterian/St. Luke's, reminding us all to smile and see the good in each other and ourselves.
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