Artist Creates 'Hope' at Cancer Institute

When commissioned to create a sculpture for the new, 12-story expansion for the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, UALR art professor Michael Warrick found inspiration in a conversation with a good friend.

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“The idea for ‘Seeds of Hope’ came from a phrase I heard a long time ago in a conversation with a friend,” Warrick said. “She said, ‘If you plant a seed it means you have hope for the future.’ I felt this was a fitting idea for the work at the Cancer Institute.”

The sculpture was unveiled during the dedication of the institute on July 30. Once patients complete treatment, they will be given two tokens: one to place in the sculpture and one to take home in honor of their healing process.

More than 40 cancer survivors attended the dedication and tossed ceremonial tokens into the sculpture along with Gov. Mike Beebe, UAMS Chancellor Dr. Dan Rahn, and Cancer Center Institute Director, Dr. Peter D. Emanuel.

“When we were developing plans for the Cancer Institute expansion, we wanted the entire building to inspire hope for our patients and their families,” Emanuel said. “We also wanted a tangible symbol in the building that could relay that message of hope and give our patients a way to honor their survivorship. It was important for us to choose an artist from within the University of Arkansas family, and Michael’s work was so exceptional that we knew he could create the perfect piece for our atrium.”

Warrick received the commission through a recommendation his colleague, UALR art professor, Floyd Martin, made to Cromwell Architects Engineers, the architects of the new expansion.

“I began looking at books I have on seeds and doing drawings of seeds forms that I thought would be interesting shapes for the vessel,” he said. “After I got a few general ideas, I began carving Styrofoam seed shapes, hollowing them out and covering them with an oil-based clay.”

The finished design of “Seeds of Hope” is sculpted from white pearl Turkish marble and stands two feet high, is four feet long and two feet deep.

“I started the design aspect of the vessel in December and worked on it off and on through April,” said Warrick. “I worked on the full scale model in early June and the carving in late June and most of July.”

Four volunteers devoted almost 80 hours to assist Warrick in completing and installing the sculpture.

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“We want everyone who sees Seeds of Hope to know that while cancer may seem at times like an insurmountable obstacle, it can be beaten,” Emanuel said. “Our hope is that ultimately the sculpture will overflow with tokens placed in it by our survivors, and that everyone who sees it will realize that each token represents a courageous person who has battled cancer and won.”

Warrick has other work on display abroad. In 2008, Warrick traveled to Changchun, China, one of five sister cities to Little Rock, to install a six-by-nine bronze sculpture, “Visionary,” in the International City Sister Sculpture Park in the southern part of the city.

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