Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern announced on Feb. 27 that the medical school will showcase a new portrait exhibit in an effort to diversify its artwork in public spaces.
Set to open on March 13, this temporary exhibition will feature photographic portraits of women medical school faculty members. The exhibit is the first of its kind to be conceived by the newly formed Yale School of Medicine Committee on Art in Public Spaces, or CAPS, and will be on display along the second floor hallway of the Sterling Hall of Medicine next to the Dean’s Office.
“The art on the walls of our public spaces at the School of Medicine provides an opportunity to critically reflect on our history as a conduit to facilitating honest and respectful conversations about our past, present, and future,” Alpern wrote in the communitywide email announcing the new exhibit.
The exhibit will showcase framed, archival-quality photographs of nearly 60 different professors. Among those featured in the exhibit will be Carolyn Walch Slayman, a former medical school genetics and molecular physiology professor who also served as a deputy dean for academic and scientific affairs.
The photos will accompany entries recounting the faculty members’ responses to questions such as “What would you say to inspire a young scientist?” and “If you could talk to a younger you, what would you say?”
One frame among the photos will be left empty to ask onlookers, “Who is missing?” Viewers will be invited to write names of other inspirational women faculty members in a book accompanying the exhibit or on the exhibit’s webpage.
School of Medicine Chief Diversity Officer and CAPS co-chair Darin Latimore said that he hopes the new exhibition will increase the inclusivity of artwork displayed at the medical school.
“I hope that our work leads to intellectual conversation about the issues that are facing America as a whole, not just Yale School of Medicine,” he said.
In a State of the Medical School address on Feb. 1, Alpern said that the portraits currently on display next to the Dean’s Office speak to Yale’s tradition as a centuries-old institution, but they do not reflect what the institution has become today.
CAPS was founded in January to spearhead new ideas for exhibitions that would diversify artwork on display at the medical school. Headed by Latimore and his co-chair Anna Reisman, director of Program for Humanities in Medicine, the committee has set out to ensure exhibitions at the medical school are “inclusive, thoughtful, and intentional, with a focus on looking at how art can be used to encompass the stories we wish to tell, as well as how it can more accurately reflect our community,” according to Alpern’s email.
Within the Committee on Art in Public Spaces, a subcommittee focused on rotating exhibits will identify spaces and themes for other shows that will feature art made by members of the School of Medicine and members of the New Haven community.
“Assessing and reshaping the artwork displayed on our walls requires a considered approach that takes into account many different voices and viewpoints as we seek to embody the values that define our school and our community,” Alpern wrote in his email. “I hope you will avail yourselves of the opportunities that [the committee] will provide going forward to participate in these timely discussions as its work unfolds.”
The School of Medicine plans to commission portraits of Beatrix Ann Hamburg MED ’48, Yvette Fay Francis-Barnette MED ’50 and Doris Louise Wethers MED ’52, three of the first black women to attend the school. In addition, the medical school will also acquire a portrait of Dorothy Horstmann, a former School of Medicine professor who made essential discoveries about poliovirus that eventually led to the creation of its vaccine.
The Sterling Hall of Medicine is located a 333 Cedar St.
Marisa Peryer | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, March 7: A previous version of this article stated that the School of Medicine had already commissioned portraits of the first three black women to attend the school. In fact, the medical school plans to commission these portraits but has yet to do so.