It’s easy to take for granted the ways in which art enhances our everyday lives, and at times it can go unnoticed. But there’s no denying that a strategically placed painting or sculpture can turn a high-anxiety space—like a dentist’s waiting room—into a more calming oasis. For those living with HIV and AIDS in Austin, Texas, and using the AIDS Services of Austin (ASA), the artwork donated by Terry Eaton and Robert Williams of Eaton Fine Art to both its main campus offices and community dental clinic delivers a bit of joy.
“The importance for us is for [the space] not to feel sterile, and for it not to feel like somebody doesn’t care for the individuals within the space,” Eaton explained. “With this particular project, we asked, ‘How can we provide creativity in the artwork so that one forgets their trepidation or apprehension and anxiousness about being in a dental chair?’ I don’t know about you, but [neither] Robert nor I love going to a dentist, so if we can be distracted or look at this really beautiful image while waiting or sitting in the dental chair, great.”
Having built a passion around philanthropic efforts, Eaton and Williams’ collaboration with ASA began about four years ago. Originally, ASA had asked for the potential donation of two pieces of art for its main campus offices, but after the initial visit, Williams returned to Eaton with a plan to donate their time and resources so that the entire office could be filled with curated artwork. “When Robert went over there, it quickly went from a couple pieces in the front to donating artwork for the entire campus,” Eaton said, “including corridors and conference rooms. [Artwork] enhances one’s space, both for the individuals who utilize the space—be it their food bank or meetings—as well as the employees. We wanted to bring a special moment of light and levity to the spaces.”
Williams pointed out that their second collaboration with ASA—the community dental clinic—came about because a new, state-of-the-art facility was being built, and organizers intended to rehang art from the ‘70s. In contrast, Eaton explained, hanging new artwork doesn’t just nix potential feelings of dread in patients, but shows that somebody in their community cares. “It’s something we’re passionate about. At least from our perspective, [hanging old works] is like someone really didn’t care enough to update [the space].”
Eaton and Williams intend to continue collaborating with the ASA for as long as the organization continues to grow and needs updated art. And for those in need of ASA’s services, they’ll continue to be surrounded by beautiful artwork with the reminder that people certainly care.
How to Get Involved
Providing one’s time and resources to the community doesn’t have to be a grand endeavor. Both Eaton and Williams suggest finding the causes you’re passionate about, and contacting local organizations to find out the ways in which they can use help. Because of the nature of non-profits, budgets for design are minimal, if they exist at all, so volunteering even a fraction of your time to providing interior design consultations can help those who will use the space. As Eaton and Williams pointed out, it’s fairly simple to show the future users of the space that someone cares.
Local HIV testing sites and care facilities can be found at hiv.gov/locator.
Photography by Kurt Forschen