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The Art of Science: Sylvester Opens Exhibit in Time for Art Basel

Sylvester’s second annual “Art is Medicine” installation opens Dec. 1 and will feature a new collection that highlights clinical research from Sophia George, Ph.D., on disparities in cancer among those with African ancestry.

This year’s Art Basel fair will bring hundreds of exhibits from leading galleries around the world to Miami. Art lovers will see some of the best in contemporary art and contemplate the creations and artist-led experiences at one of the city’s most notable creative events.

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, will tie into the event with the launch of its own exhibit just minutes away from Art Basel locations in Wynwood and Miami Beach. The showcase will highlight Sylvester’s research and the intersectionality of art, science and people.

Art is Medicine

Beginning Dec. 1, patients and community members visiting Sylvester will have an opportunity to enjoy “Science & Safari,” which blends photographs of Africa with the scientific research Sophia George, Ph.D., is conducting worldwide to control and prevent cancer in the Black community. The Namibia photographs join walking galleries that feature art from physicians, staff, patients and the community.

Desert Horse-Grant, Sylvester’s chief transformation officer, conceptualized and curated the installation and new Namibia exhibit. In its second year, Art is Medicine pieces adorn Sylvester’s walls.

“Our gallery is a message of hope, in a place of healing,” Horse-Grant said. “May the newest exhibit teleport and provide respite to the anxious. Having visual breaks from medical imagery in a cancer center is of utmost importance to any patient.”

Sylvester Exhibit Shines Light on Cancer Disparities

Until recently, most genomic research has focused on people of European descent. Dr. George, Sylvester’s associate director for diversity, equity and inclusion and associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences in the Miller School’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology, and her Sylvester colleagues are part of an international effort to change that.

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Sophia George, Ph.D., speaking from a podium
Sophia George, Ph.D., and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center colleagues are studying cancer-specific issues that affect populations across the African diaspora.

Joining cancer centers worldwide, they are working to decode Black genomes and study the issues that are cancer-specific to populations across the African diaspora. Studies are designed to discern the reasons those of African descent face a higher risk of aggressive breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, and the reasons these diseases often develop in this population at younger ages. The underlying driving factors are not well understood.

“One of Sylvester’s core missions is to address this health disparity and promote equitable outcomes,” said Dr. George. “We are searching for answers globally as well as in our own local communities.”

Art Follows the Path of a Clinical Trial

Photographer Craig Butts recently traveled with Dr. George in Namibia, one of 14 countries enlisted in the African Cancer Genome Registry Study, a global clinical trial Dr. George launched to research the genetic makeup of cancer tumors.

Sylvester’s Chief Transformation Officer Desert Horse-Grant, here at Dorob National Park during the “Science & Safari” trip, said the exhibit “is a message of hope, in a place of healing.”

The resulting “Science & Safari” exhibit is a “creative pipeline to the work Dr. George is doing,” said Horse-Grant. The gallery wall is filled with large-scale photos Butts took during the Namibia trip and includes images of landscapes and animals in their natural habitats.

The shoot was personal for Butts, as he lost his father and sister-in-law to cancer.  The family included an African safari on its bucket list but never had the opportunity to go. Butts donated his photography to make this safari and the related science accessible to all. People can expect to see lions, zebras, giraffes, elephants, beautiful sunsets and much more.

A Blend of Art and Science

The display includes a lab photo of Dr. George and a QR code that links to more information on her research program. According to Dr. George, this exhibit “captures the genetic landscape of the African diaspora by working collaboratively with native Africans. Our work traverses the places where people in the U.S. and West develop aggressive cancers. We are contextualizing the data and meeting the people in their settings, identifying uniqueness, sameness, and in awe of the terrain.”

“All of our lives intersect across geographies,” continued Dr. George. “The people we are studying and working with are in unique environments. We want our patients and visitors to have an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and the constituents within it.”

Horse-Grant said that when patients come to Sylvester, they will be surrounded by calming images as they wait for treatment and care. The gallery has musicians several times per week, creating an environment to “delight the senses” and further promote the art and music therapy programs offered at Sylvester.

“At Sylvester, we celebrate art and its power to heal. It is a way to connect us to one another and the community,” Horse-Grant said. “While our exhibit, at first glance, is dedicated to Namibia, we bridge it to science in a kind and friendly way. Our patients deserve great art and so much more. Nature serves as the backdrop of this phenomenally teleportive exhibit.”

“Science & Safari” will be on display through the spring.

Tags: Dr. Sophia George, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center