Nursing school sculpture incorporates pieces of Jewish past

A sculpture using bricks of the former Jewish Hospital School of Nursing is unveiled during a ceremony last week. Photo: Kristi Foster

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Dozens were on hand at the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College to see the tarp pulled off a new piece of artwork, which will decorate the institution’s entrance.

“We wanted to celebrate our past. We wanted to celebrate our present and most importantly, we wanted to look toward our future,” said Rich Liekweg, executive vice president of BJC HealthCare before the unveiling of “Full Sail” Thursday afternoon (Oct. 8) in front of a crowd of dignitaries and donors. “Tonight we are going to be celebrating the history of our two parents if you will.”

Those parents are the old colleges of nursing for Barnes and Jewish hospitals. The medical facilities merged in 1996 but the nursing schools wouldn’t join until nearly a decade later. Funding from philanthropist Alvin Goldfarb would cause the resulting school to be renamed after him in 2007.

The sculpture revealed last Thursday, featuring curved protruding sail-shaped figures marked with various lines as well as nursing symbols and abbreviations, is as important for its base as for the ceramic work itself. A cornerstone and the foundation of red bricks encircling it are from the old Jewish Hospital School of Nursing while nearby brown bricks embedded in the concrete are from Barnes’ former educational institution.

Artist Bede Clarke, who created the ceramic components, told the crowd of his deep love for the nursing profession noting that his elderly mother was currently going into hospice care.

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“[There is a] sense of comfort my family and my mother feel with this decision and with the care we know she is going to receive from the nurses in hospice,” he said concluding that nursing represents “the best in us.” “Thank you nurses and thank you to the school of nursing for all that you do.”

He said he wanted to create something positive, beautiful, colorful and uplifting.

“These are all things I associate with nursing, teaching, youth in general and with art,” he said. “I wanted to speak to that wonderful time when a young person sees their life’s work before them, sets their compass and finds a way to fill their sails with energy and passion and a love for an important undertaking.”

The brickwork was done by Michele Jianakoplos, a native St. Louisan. Interviewed afterward by the Jewish Light, she said it was good to see the piece finally come to completion.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “We had a lot of freedom from the commissioners to kind of get creative.”

Both artists are based in Missouri and clay from within the state was used for some of the sculpture.

Michael Bleich, president and dean of the school, noted that it was a big day for his institution.

“It makes you feel like it is a very cohesive space for health and healing,” he said. “It gives us a sense of optimism for the future and what we want to do as nurses. We want to bring energy into the world and continue to be the healers that we have been for over 100 years.”


View more photos from the sculpture unveiling at