The Cancer Wall, by Doug Calisch
Text by Alanna Kennedy
In 2004, artist Doug Calisch created a work of art for Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Ind., using the donated possessions of cancer patients and their families. To gather items for the Cancer Wall, which is now installed in the lobby of the hospital’s cancer center, Calisch set up a collection bin and a small workspace in the cancer center waiting room, where he met with interested patients every Friday.
“At first, people were a little standoffish,” says Calisch. “But as I became more familiar to them, people became more interested in the project.” Patients even began going out of their way to visit Calisch on Fridays so they could share the stories behind their objects. “One man who had throat cancer gave me his complete pipe collection,” says Calisch. “He wanted people to know it was what caused him to become a part of the cancer community.” Another patient gave Calisch a lock of hair she had lost after chemotherapy. Many brought him items of religious and spiritual significance.
In a speech he gave during the dedication of the mural, Calisch said the wall was “a testament to the diversity within the cancer community, and it will serve … as a visual reminder that there are many ways to confront
Doug Calisch is a professor of art at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. To learn more about the Cancer Wall, visit Calisch's website.
(Photographs by the artist. Cancer Wall installation, Ball Memorial Hospital, by Doug Calisch)