Dr. Renee Caswell, an anesthesiologist and Director for the anesthesiology residency program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, shares a passion not only for medicine and education but also for the creative art of quilting.
From July through September, Dr. Caswell’s work will be showcased as part of the Humanities in Medicine Loaned Artwork Program in the Pharmacy Gallery on the first floor of the Mayo Clinic Building. Her exhibit will feature multiple quilts of different scales, styles, and colors.
“Art is important at Mayo Clinic and promotes a healing environment. Patients are drawn to this specific craft because of the texture of the fabric and quilting. They feel almost compelled to reach out and touch them. Many times patients can relate the quilt to a time in their life or a family member who was a quilter. Quilts appeal differently to people than paintings – they provide warmth when you look at them and can connect to patients on another dimension,” Dr. Caswell noted.
Mayo Clinic in Arizona has eight galleries designated for rotating art exhibits. Like all artists who have their work shown, Dr. Caswell applied to the program and was accepted by the Humanities in Medicine Subcommittee for exhibit. Her quilts have been featured in several displays in galleries on the Scottsdale and Phoenix campuses.
Kit Kough, coordinator for the Mayo Clinic Center for Humanities in Medicine, says “Dr. Caswell does some extraordinary work and I am always happy to see so many people stop and look at her pieces. Quilts often resonate with a diverse audience and we are fortunate to have such a talented quilter among our staff.”
For Dr. Caswell, quilting is not about making blankets, but about creating fiber art. Like any artist, her pieces can take weeks to years to complete. When creating designs from scratch, she may work from photographs or images that she can replicate in fabric. She chooses colors that are bright, happy and stimulating and says that the design continues to evolve throughout the quilting process.
Dr. Caswell led the Mayo Clinic 20th anniversary quilt team efforts in creating an incredible piece, Mayo Clinic Celebrates 20 Years of Caring in Arizona, 1987-2007. The quilt took two years to make and is currently displayed in the Taylor Auditorium foyer. “The comments patients leave are absolutely amazing, they write about what an impact the art has on them, how it has brightened their day and has given them hope that there is still beauty in the world,” she shares.
She once heard a patient remark, “Dr. Caswell is really good with needles!” referring to both her medical and creative abilities. What a perfect way to sum up how she bridges both talents.