UM Presents

Facing Uncertainty in UM’s Waiting Room

By Kate Johnson
Special to UM News


Through portraits and quotes, artist Elizabeth Jameson’s ‘Facing Uncertainty’ exhibit opens a window on living with multiple sclerosis.

Visitors to the University of Miami’s medical campus can gain unique insights into the complexities of living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the MS waiting room in the Miller School of Medicine’s Neurology Clinic at the Professional Arts Center, where Facing Uncertainty is on display through May 31.

The multimedia art installation by artist Elizabeth Jameson, in collaboration with photographer Richard Bermack, includes the portraits of six people who have been diagnosed with MS, including Jameson, and their personal quotes about living with the uncertainty of the illness.

“I do not want to live smaller as a result of my diagnosis,” says Jessica, 29, who was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis when she was 26. “I have had to adjust. There is no choice in that but to do it. But I am not going to let go of my goals, passions, and vision that I am actualizing. The bad days are rough, but the good days, they shine brighter than the sun.”

In the quote under her portrait, Jameson, who is now quadriplegic, said she is trying to find purpose in a life consumed by a chronic illness. “You want to love your life, but you can also hate your life. It’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed. As an artist, I’m forced to redefine my profession each time my disease progresses. I would be a fool if I didn’t admit that I’m terrified of what MS has in store for me next.”

Facing Uncertainty, which began as an online photography project but has evolved into the campaign #FacingUncertainty, is now part of Art MD, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote health campaigns through the use of art.

“The main objective of Art MD is to bridge the gap between art and science,” says Art MD’s president and cofounder, Zeina Hannoush, assistant professor in the Miller School’s Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, who previously worked with Jameson on “The Art of Health,” which debuted during the 2016 Art Basel week.

Art, Hannoush says, provides the perfect medium to inform the community about serious and often preventable health risks and diseases. “Art is magnificent, has no barriers, and can inspire people,” she explains.

Catherine Monahon, Jameson’s studio assistant, describes the difficulties of installing art in patient waiting rooms, noting that “in a lot of clinical spaces you can’t even thumbtack a poster up.”

In turn, Hannoush had to navigate many layers of bureaucracy and red tape to bring the installation to UM’s Neurology Clinic. “It touches on the important topic of dealing with chronic diseases,” she says.

At the UM Neurology Clinic, the portraits hang in the hallway, accompanied by plaques with each participant’s quote, which, tailored to Miami’s audience, are printed in both English and Spanish. The portraits are dynamic and thought-provoking. They catch your eye as you walk down the hallway and inspire curiosity, making you want to read more and take a deeper look into the art. If you look closely at the bottom of each portrait, the participant’s signature is visible.

You’ll also notice the people living with MS are diverse—young and old, black and white, gay and straight—because, Monahon says, Jameson wanted people to know MS is diverse.

But the main goal of Facing Uncertainty, Monahon says, is to “get people talking about their experience. Breaking that silence and breaking the taboo of talking about illness and disability and building community as well.”

Another goal is to turn the “wasted time” spent in waiting rooms into something productive. Typically, Monahon notes, waiting rooms have pictures of puppies and trees, which made Jameson feel, “kind of infantilized, like this is a waste of time.” Instead, Jameson sought to create a space where people would be “seeing one another, acknowledging their own experience, and feeling empowered.”

Jameson began Facing Uncertainty, Hannoush says, when she “started making artistic representations of her own MRIs. They frightened her, so she started painting over them to make them artistic.”

The artwork of her MRIs, which can be viewed on the Facing Uncertainty website, evolved into the idea to use art to start a conversation about MS. Now others can reach Jameson personally and others from the website, creating a support network for those affected by the disease.

“One thing I want the world to know about MS is that the disease of MS is one giant compromise after another . . . one loss after another . . .,”  Jameson wrote in an email.

The other participants have their own unique take on the illness, and their goals for the future, but they all have a common thread that connects each story: Living with MS is living with uncertainty, but that cannot stop you from living, which Jameson has proven with Facing Uncertainty.

Visitors may view the exhibit at the UM Neurology Clinic at 1150 N.W. 14 Street, Suite 609, Miami, FL 33136.




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Art MD Brings ‘Smoke Out’ to the Shalala Center

MDArtArt MD, a nonprofit group of University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital physicians who promote health  through art, is exhibiting its tobacco cessation art exhibit “Smoke Out” in the Student Suite of the Shalala Student Center through May 13.

All the pieces in the exhibit, some of which are made of recycled cigarette butts collected dusting community clean-ups, seek to inspire viewers in a different way to quit smoking.

“In a way we are healing our environment by picking up cigarette butts contaminating our beaches and streets and turning something ugly into something beautiful to give people the courage needed to quit a habit that damages their health,” said Zeina Hannoush, M.D., the creator and founder of Art MD.

To learn more about the organization visit the Art MD Project.

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Building Tradition: Making the Presidential Chair

By Maya Bell
UM News

UMPresidentialChairCORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 22, 2016) — As a master furniture maker, Austin Matheson has crafted dozens of handmade chairs, most of them for dining room sets destined to become family heirlooms. He’s sawed, chiseled, and sculpted them from prized wood in numerous styles—from Shaker to Colonial West Indian to Arts and Crafts—but they all have one thing is common: “As soon as they leave my shop I never lay eyes on them again,’’ Matheson says.

That will not be the case with the one-of-kind University of Miami Presidential Chair that Matheson, an adjunct professor of architecture, created at the request of President Julio Frenk. Known as a cathedra, the chair is a traditional symbol of the seat of learning and will take its place on the commencement stage as a new symbol of the Office of the President.

Matheson, a fifth-generation Floridian whose own rich family history in South Florida predates the University’s 1925 founding, carved and joined what appear to be the seamless pieces of the simple but elegant chair emblazoned with the University seal and the more subtle detail of the ibis from a single slab of highly prized Cuban mahogany wood.

The cathedra, which took Matheson 120 hours of painstaking labor to complete at his Fine Handmade Furniture shop in Miami, will be on exhibit on Thursday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery, with a reception at 5 p.m. The exhibit, Building Tradition: The Making of the University of Miami Presidential Chair, will also feature the drawings, models, and patterns chronicling the process of creating the chair from tree to finished object.

Austin matheson works on the prototype of what would beciem theThe Univerisyt of Miami Presidential Chair in his mimi a woofurniute-makign shop.

Adjunct Professor Austin Matheson works on the prototype of what would become The University of Miami Presidential Chair at his handmade furniture  shop in Miami.

Originally weighing 200 pounds and measuring 7 feet long, 33 inches wide, and 4.5 inches thick, the slab of once-abundant Cuban mahogany was salvaged from a tree in nearby Coconut Grove that, fittingly for a University that opened amid the ruins of the 1926 hurricane, was felled decades later by another hurricane.

The fluidity of Matheson’s seemingly seamless design represents the idea that “We Are One U,” while his inventive incorporation of both a contemporary style and traditional flourishes represent the University’s rich past and promising future. “The chair is unique, it has no precedent. It stands alone,” Matheson said.

In what Matheson called “a tricky maneuver,” the Great Seal of the University of Miami was carefully etched by a computerized laser into a place of prominence, on the splat, or back of the chair. Matheson’s teaching assistant, Zach Anderson, performed that honor. “He practiced it about six or seven times,” Matheson recalls.

More subtle are the twin silhouettes of the ibis head, with its graceful beak, that adorn each side of the crest rail. Known for its invincible spirit when hurricanes approach, the marsh bird has been the school mascot since the University opened its doors, just a month after the hurricane of 1926 devastated Miami. And just like the ibis, Matheson and President Frenk hope the University of Miami Presidential Chair will continue to serve as a symbol of the University’s resilience and renewal through its new century, and long after.

“The University of Miami Presidential Chair brings together the intellectual and artistic resources of our faculty, the natural resources of our city, and the rich traditions of our University,” President Frenk said.

“It was a great project and I have to say I like it a lot,’’ added Matheson, who teaches furniture design and fabrication, one of the few non-theoretical, hands-on courses at the School of Architecture. “It was a long process, but since I was only making one, it was an honor to devote that kind of time to it. After all, it is something that will last a long, long time.”





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School of Communication to Host Coral Gables Comedy Festival

ComicCure2CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 16, 2016) — Comic Cure brings the Coral Cables Comedy Festival to the University of Miami campus on Thursday, March 31, when more than 20 local comedians will take the stage at the Bill Cosford Cinema to compete for the title of “fan favorite.” A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Public Relations Experience Program (PREP) in the School of Communication.

“As a UM alumnus, it’s not only rewarding to bring my work back to the very campus that taught me so much, but I feel it’s my responsibility to provide a learning opportunity for students,” explained co-founder Benjamin Leis. “UM and the School of Communication have such amazing programs, organizations, and offerings. We hope to highlight a few that evening.”

Leis has had a special connection with the University of Miami since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman from Philadelphia in August of 2004. He was an active campus leader having pursued a degree in broadcast journalism and political science. After graduation his involvement with the University continued, as a volunteer leader for seven years and as a professional working for the UM Alumni Association for about five years.

In Comic Cure’s special festival format, more than 20 comedians divided between the two shows perform their best material in three-minute sets. At the end of each show, the audience votes for their favorite, choosing which comedian wins the grand prize and bragging rights.

Tickets are available in advance for $20 at CoralGablesComedyFestival.com. Tickets are also available for $30 the night of the show at the Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Drive, Coral Gables, Fla. 33143, as long as seats are available. People 18 and older are welcome with discounted tickets for students. Parking is available for free on campus. Doors open at 6 p.m. with shows at 7 and 9 p.m.

PREP is a faculty-supervised course for students to take their knowledge out of the classroom and into the workplace. PREP is designed to provide students with hands-on experience “doing” their future careers. PREP provides a supervised workforce for special events, non-profits, and sports organizations throughout South Florida.

Comic Cure produces live comedic events showcasing local performers to raise awareness, volunteers, and funds for local charities. Created by Leis and his brother, Richy, in 2015, Comic Cure combines the passions of both brothers while supporting deserving non-profits within the community.


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Confront Female Insecurities at FACE IT Photography Exhibit on March 21

Girls 4 Good and SPARK will present FACE IT, a biannual photography exhibit highlighting the insecurities and stereotypes experienced by female  members of the UM community, on Monday, March 21, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the University Center Storm Surge Room.

FACE IT is a way for members of the UM community to confront insecurities by writing them directly on their bodies. These portraits will be juxtaposed with a second photo of each participant, in which words/phrases are submitted by the participants’ friends, family, or significant others and highlight positive qualities in the participants.

The organizers hope that, in showcasing the discrepancy between how women perceive themselves and how their loved ones perceive them, they will bring awareness to both women’s mental health and the restrictions imposed by societal perceptions of femininity. Educational materials regarding these topics will be provided during the exhibit.

FACE IT is also an interactive exhibit, meaning that every attendee will get to participate in the event.


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