Touching Lives Through Art: SNMH Auxiliary Art Program

Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital employee Suzy Crabtree enjoys photography as a hobby. Currently, three of his photos are on display inside the hospital as part of the Auxiliary Art Program. Crabtree is shown here with auxiliary volunteer Laurie Whitsel and Katy McKay.

The Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has a long history of brightening the days of patients and staff inside the hospital. Whether it’s a helping hand, a smiling face or a kind word, Auxiliary Members make a difference in a variety of ways.

One of the important and tangible ways in which The Auxiliary has a positive impact on the hospital environment is through The Auxiliary’s arts program.

“The Auxiliary Art Program is a way to showcase local artists, brighten up the walls of the hospital and ultimately sell the artwork, generating money to benefit the hospital. ‘hospital,” says Katy McKay, Adjunct Member and Art Gallery Coordinator.



At any time, you can find a variety of local artwork on the hospital walls, including photographs and paintings.

“The protocol for the program has evolved and changed over the years,” says McKay. “Currently, we exhibit one or two artists at a time, on a fortnightly rotation. There are several areas throughout the hospital where artwork is displayed, including the gift shop, in the main lobby, and along a hallway on the ground floor.



McKay points out that the program is a real win-win for everyone involved. The presentation of their work in a public place benefits local artists in search of visibility. And for patients, visitors and staff, having interesting art to enjoy creates unexpected moments of beauty inside hospital walls.

Because the pieces are available for purchase, the program also creates an opportunity for local artists to earn an income. For The Auxiliary, the program provides another fundraising opportunity.

The Artist receives 75% of art sales and the Auxiliary receives 25%. This money contributes to the amount the Auxiliary donates annually to the hospital. It is designed for direct patient care items and equipment, ensuring continuous patient care.

“Over the years, thousands of dollars have been raised through art sales,” says McKay. “Doctors, nurses and staff bought many exhibits. Sometimes a patient or visitor sees something they “must have”. I have heard many stories, all special ones, and they tell me how much this place is worth.

For her part, McKay says she enjoys her contact with artists – meeting them, seeing their work and figuring out what to display at the hospital. She says almost all artists are eager to participate. Only once was his invitation to participate refused.

“My favorite moment is when we’re changing the display, removing parts, and then hanging new ones,” she says. “So much interest is being generated to see what happens next. Everyone stops and talks, everyone is curious and has opinions!

Before hanging the art, McKay creates tags that accompany each piece, noting the artist, information about them, and the price. The artwork is sold in the hospital’s Pine Tree gift shop.

McKay has been in charge of the art program for 15 years. Previously, her auxiliary duty area was the main lobby office of the hospital, where she provided instructions and information. In addition to her work on the art program, McKay also volunteers at the gift shop and serves as an auxiliary liaison on the SNMH Foundation Board of Directors.

“Being a member of the Auxiliary is extremely rewarding,” she says. “As Auxiliary Members, we interact with each other by giving of our time and talent, and we share a sense of gratitude for the service we provide to SNMH.”

Although McKay claims that she herself is not an artist, she finds the time she devotes to her ancillary art program rewarding.

“I asked a physical therapist to tell me how much he enjoys looking at the artwork as he walks down the hall with a patient,” she says. “Patients, visitors and staff all enjoy and enjoy the artwork on display.”

Another way the SNMH Auxiliary touches the lives of everyone inside our community hospital.

Kayleen C. Rice