Where the arts meet science

“A Light in the Darkness” by Quynh Chi Nguyen

The dozens of local university students who will be displaying their drawings during an art show in Signal Hill Friday night are likely to be better at performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation than elaborating on the aesthetic theories of Kandinsky. And the students who will be reciting their original poems during that same event may be better able to show you where your lateral epicondyle is than to list off Yeats’ most significant works.
That’s because these students are not art majors; they’re nursing students.
The American University of Health Sciences, 1600 E. Hill St., will present “Panacea: A Night of Art and Poetry” Nov. 30 from 5pm to 7pm to highlight the work of individuals enrolled in its Art 300: Medical Illustration II course.
The class enables students to “articulate a unique mix of skills in project management, understanding of science and breaking medical technologies, as well as the fundamentals of art, animation, design and web development,” according to the university’s website.
In an interview at the university Nov. 26, its founder, Pastor Gregory Johnson, said that art and science go “hand in hand.”
“My wife and I started this university 25 years ago in April, and, for us, as a minority-serving university, with these Christian values, especially as it focuses on health sciences, we’ve always believed that art is critical,” Johnson said, “in terms of developing individuals, in terms of developing programs, in developing opportunities.”
It’s a holistic approach, he explained.
“From an educational standpoint, we look at the whole being,” Johnson said. “If you look at the Renaissance period, if you look at the top scientists, if you look at the top people in those sciences, most of them were artists who happened to be scientists.”
Johnson said he believes that utilizing an artist’s way of thinking enabled those in science centuries ago to imagine more.
“It’s impossible, to me, for someone to imagine themselves as healing someone– or healing themselves– if they don’t touch art,” he said, “because it is therapeutic.”
Maria Maloles, director of marketing and publications for AUHS, said she is astonished at the quality of the work produced by students who had not previously studied art.
“You will be amazed at how good these art works are,” said Maloles, who had just received the drawings the day before. “It was so amazing, [I thought,] ‘Oh, my God. These are the art works that have been done by students who haven’t done art their entire life?’”
The person behind the students’ progress is Ja’Rie Gray, who teaches art to the students, AUHS staff said. Gray has a master’s of fine art from Cal State Long Beach and a bachelor’s of fine art from Laguna College of Art and Design.

Courtesy AUHS
“Unknown (Skeleton in Environment)” by R. Stovell
Johnson explained that the art classes, exhibit and poetry reading are all aligned with the university’s goal of bringing art– not only to its students– but to the community, as well. That outreach is supported by the AUHS Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, data-driven community-based research organization the university created “to relieve the suffering of the poor, distressed and underprivileged through research and education in health sciences,” according to the school’s website.
Lieu Dang Suss, program director for the AUHS Foundation, said it is important that those served by the university receive a diverse education.
“A person that is a healer and a caretaker in the healthcare industry that is well rounded and knows about the arts and is in touch and in tune with their own emotions and needs and desires can relate to the people that they’re going to be helping,” Suss said.
Johnson added that this artistic intervention needs to begin early though.
“?We look at blight as the absence of light, in the eyes of children,” Johnson said. “And if you take away light, if you take away hope, you create blight. By getting them involved in the arts, by getting them involved in creating things, while they’re pursuing their science, while they’re starting to believe that they can do anything, while they’re finding themselves, while they’re finding God, it just creates a whole being.”
More information about the event is available by calling (562) 988-2278.
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