Connecting Cultures from Africa to the Americas: Hope, Healing and Humanity exhibit opens March 1st at Overlook Medical Center

In honor of Black History month, Morris Arts and Overlook Medical Center will proudly present Connecting Cultures from Africa to the Americas: Hope, Healing and Humanity, a collaborative program featuring works developed with the guidance of Overlook’s poet-in-residence, Thomas Dooley, and visual artists Geraldine Gaines and Onnie Strother.

Opening March 1, 2023, the initiative showcases Overlook and Atlantic Health System’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and humanism in medicine by highlighting aspirational artists from among the hospital’s patients, clinicians and community who reflect its empowering and respectful culture.

L-R: Onnie Strother’s Elijah Rock; The Joy of Life;  Geraldine Anderson Gaines: I Wear My Crown; Slave Port So. Carolina

“We are proud to continue our collaboration with Morris Arts and honored to showcase the connection to our communities for all of our patients, visitors and team members,” said Stephanie Schwartz, president of Overlook Medical Center and senior vice president, Atlantic Health System. “Just as in artistic expression, exploring and understanding the experiences of others is an important part of caring for our communities.”

Led by Overlook’s poet-in-residence, Thomas Dooley, and a dedicated advisory group, team members, patients, and caregivers were invited to take a moment and write a personal reflection or share a story or poem inspired by this prompt: “Reflecting on Black History Month, what do you want people to know and understand about your lived experience?”

For the visual pieces of this year’s exhibit, Curator Dr. Lynn Siebert, Director of Galleries at Morris Arts, offered this background on her choice of the artists: “Onnie Strother and Geraldine Anderson Gaines are two highly accomplished and multi-talented artists whose works offer rich and unique visions of the Black experience and the cultural connections between Africa and the Americas.”  

A visual artist, teacher, and curator with degrees in Fine Arts and Educational Administration / Supervision, Onnie Strother taught for 24 years in the South Orange/Maplewood district, instituting many cutting-MDedge courses and programs. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and uses his skills as a visual artist to inspire and educate people about art, the Black Experience in America and to explore music, social issues, and concepts of service and inclusion. Currently, he is curating shows at Studio Montclair, the Morris Museum, Mayo Performing Arts Center and leading “talk backs” for Broadway’s “The Collaboration” as well discussions on Slave Artists in Antebellum America and “Passing.”  Additionally, he is the founder of the JC White Creative Aging Project, an arts enrichment program for seniors in Newark Public Housing and he has worked at the JSDD Wellness, Arts, Enrichment (WAE) Center for the developmentally disabled. Both speak to his keen sensitivity and awareness of the role the arts play in healing and hope among the aging or those with disabilities.

Geraldine Anderson Gaines adds her distinctive Africa-infused artistic language to the exhibit.  Accomplished in the art of traditional African drumming and dancing in addition to her work as a visual artist, she has created a portfolio of Africa-inspired carvings and paintings, highlighting African iconography, while also referencing the cultural contributions of African-Americans through her portraits of outstanding performers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and others. Her connection to the healing arts is also personal: years ago, she took holistic /herb and iridology classes and her daughter is an ER physician who formerly worked at Overlook.

The works of both artists synchronize with Overlook’s commitment to the arts as a means of enhancing healing, embracing humanistic principles and engendering hope. 

Siebert adds, “Morris Arts is thrilled to once again partner with Overlook Medical Center in this endeavor. The works by these two artists establishes a connection between the cultures of Africa and the Americas in a manner that amplifies our common humanity and illuminates the uplifting, healing power of the arts.”

      Views of the gallery installation

The Opening Program will take place at Overlook Medical Center in Bouras Auditorium, 99 Beauvoir Avenue, Summit, NJ on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 from noon to 1:00pm (with the Art and Poetry Gallery Preview opening at 11:30am). The art and poetry program celebrates the cultural connections between Africa and the Americas and will feature award winning actor and director Stephanie Weeks to emcee the event and perform a selection of writing.

Opening remarks by Dr. Karlene Williams, MD, Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program of Overlook Medical Center who will share her aspirational vision of this program. Thomas Dooley, Overlook’s Poet-in-Residence, will introduce the program and Morris Arts representatives: Tom Werder, Executive Director, and Dr. Lynn L. Siebert, Director of Galleries and Curator of the exhibit. They will speak of their vision for this exhibit and introduce artists Onnie Strother and Geraldine Anderson Gaines who will then share their artistic visions and inspirations. Mr. Dooley will elaborate on how Overlook’s team members were encouraged to recommend and/or bring a poem to be read by Stephanie Weeks, who will also share her connection to performing poetry. Some team members may also read their poems and reflections. Stephanie Schwartz, President of Overlook Medical Center and Senior Vice President of Atlantic Health System, will offer the closing remarks followed by a final poetry reading. The exhibit will remain on display through April 24, 2023.

About Morris Arts
Now celebrating its 50th Anniversary, Morris Arts is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1973 dedicated to building community through the arts. Using the arts to inspire, connect and engage, Morris Arts serves as a resource for Morris County with a special focus on arts programming in the community and in the schools, arts advocacy, and support of the Morris Area community of artists and arts organizations.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of more than 18,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey including 12 counties and 6.2 million people. The not-for-profit system offers more than 400 sites of care, including its seven hospitals: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, Newton Medical Center in Newton, NJ, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ, Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ, Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute in Madison, NJ and through its partnership with CentraState Healthcare System in Freehold, NJ.

Atlantic Medical Group, comprised of 1,000 physicians and advanced practice providers, represents one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey and joins Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners as part of Atlantic Alliance, a Clinically Integrated Network of more than 2,500 health care providers throughout northern and central NJ.

Atlantic Health System provides care for the full continuum of health care needs through 23 urgent care centers, Atlantic Visiting Nurse and Atlantic Anywhere Virtual Visits. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

Atlantic Health System leads the Healthcare Transformation Consortium, a partnership of six regional hospitals and health systems dedicated to improving access and affordability and is a founding member of the PIER Consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research – a streamlined clinical trial system that will expand access to groundbreaking research across five health systems in the region.

Atlantic Health System has a medical school affiliation with Thomas Jefferson University and is home to the regional campus of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Morristown and Overlook Medical Centers and is the official health care partner of the New York Jets.

Building Community Through the Arts for 50 years