Must see: Finding fun and comfort in sculpture

Sculptures can be found around the campus of Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

Sculptures can be found around the campus of Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Between the flurry of scrubs, squeaky hallways, and frigid temperatures, most hospitals induce nervousness, anxiety and fear in the average person. Hospitals can signal the end of life or the hope of a new one, while walking an endless tightrope of treating people through the most challenging times of life.

Scripps Memorial in La Jolla has been working for decades to change that experience by bringing art into the hospital environment through the Healing Arts Program. The idea is based on numerous research studies correlating patient outcomes, well-being, and healing with the physical environment that surrounded the visit. The program was brought to Scripps back in 1993, when the hospital was looking for an artwork for the lobby. Philanthropists Ralyn and Nathan Wolfstein donated Truth Lies Just Beneath the Surface, a painting by Gerrit Greve for the couple’s 45th wedding anniversary.

For their 50th anniversary in 1998, the couple then donated five sculptures to the Healing Arts Program, and officially established the Wolfstein Sculpture Park. The couple has continued to donate multiple pieces since then, which now includes an incredible 33 works to date.

Entering the driveway of Scripps Memorial is like entering a sculpture wonderland. Everywhere the eye turns, a sculpture is in the line of sight with thoughtful and well-planned positioning. Gaze upward and see the whimsical WE-E-E-E-E-E bicycle of Amos Robinson with the wheels “turning” in the wind. Look right and experience the calm and serenity of the elegant white marble sculpture just behind spraying water fountains, entitled Family Reflections by Madeleine Weiner.

Park in the visitor structure on the northwest end of the campus, then walk southeast to be greeted by an array of works on the path to the main entrance. The large blue and pink Ribbon of Hope by Lia Strell gives pause and meditation over those struggling with chronic illness, while whimsical Pedestrian Observation by Ed Benavente with an exposed rounded heinie is sure to cause a giggle in kids and adults alike.

There is something for every type of art lover and casual visitor — the traditional, the modern, the figurative, the abstract, the exciting, the comforting, the playful, the meditative. Kids will love Fritzie Urquhart’s Big Red digger scoop and the multi-armed, colorful Tangerine Caterpillar Dream by Doug Snider and Sarah Storm, while grownups can contemplate the gorgeous green glass spirals of Christopher Lee’s Spiral Tetrahedron 1 & 2.

Lovers of beautifully rendered figurative art will enjoy examining Little Girl with Fishes in the water feature by TJ Dixon and James Nelson, while abstract fans can ponder the Symbolic Forest With Elijah by Italo Scanga or the trio of large steel works including the gravity defying Brutal Dance by Jeffrey Laudenslager.

Those seeking a lighthearted “look” can daydream through the giant lenses of Have You Seen My Sunglasses by Leslie Perlis & Terry Douglas. To see the full thumbnail lineup of the thirty-three sculptures, visit

Intrigued and ready to visit? Two free docent-led tours are led each month, with the next one coming up at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9. RSVP by calling the Volunteer Services Department at 858.626.6994. The tour requests that participants wear comfortable shoes and sun protection.

Scripps Memorial Hospital, 9888 Genesee Ave., La Jolla,