Take a Tour: Couple’s gifts of art housed in Sculpture Park at Scripps Hospital La Jolla
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
When you’re heading for Scripps Memorial Hospital, chances are you’re not thinking about art. Driving onto the medical campus, you’ve probably missed the sign on your right that announces “Wolfstein Sculpture Park,” though you may have registered the large circle of steel just beyond.
It’s only one of 31 sculptures in a variety of styles that make up the collection started in 1998 by Ralyn and Nathan Wolfstein, a couple of generous art-lovers with homes in Encino and Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
For the past 50 years, the Wolfsteins have been brightening the surroundings of hospitals and universities by buying and donating pieces of public art. He manufactured pharmaceuticals and she started making artworks at age seven. They both believe in the healing power of art.
“We bought our first piece when we had hardly any money,” Ralyn said. “We gave it to the American Jewish University in L.A. Then UC Irvine built a cancer center and I ended up organizing the art program there.”
The idea for a Sculpture Park at Scripps-La Jolla had its beginnings in 1993 when the Wolfsteins bought a painting from Gerrit Greve, an artist who lives next door to their Cardiff residence.
“The hospital’s art committee asked for one of his paintings, and Nate and I agreed to donate ours,” said Ralyn. “It was our 45th anniversary, and when we drove onto the campus to present the painting and I saw those rolling grounds, I said, ‘I can see sculpture everywhere!’ ”
Five years later, in time for their 50th anniversary, the Wolfsteins created the Park with several pieces by Leucadia sculptor Jeffery Laudenslager, including that giant steel circle.
“For special events in your life, instead of just giving a big party, it’s wonderful to give something permanent, something positive and encouraging that people can see and appreciate for years to come,” Ralyn said.
In 2003, they discovered the Port of San Diego’s Urban Trees exhibitions, an annual display of works along downtown’s Embarcadero. Twelve of these “trees” are now at home in the Sculpture Park.
One of the newest additions, and one of the most whimsical, is a bicycle built for two, commissioned by the Wolfsteins two years ago and installed this past summer.
“There’s Nate in the front, driving, and I’m in the back going Yeahhhhh!” Ralyn said. “The name of the piece is ‘We-eeeee!’ with one ‘e’ for each of our five grandkids. ‘We’ has always been a key word in our lives. My husband feels the trouble with a lot of marriages today is that people have lost touch with that word.”
Their ‘we’ must be working. The piece is a celebration of their 62nd anniversary.
The Sculpture Park is part of the hospital’s Arts for Healing program, the aesthetic component of Scripps’ “World of Healing.”
“We really try to create a healing environment, not only with medical care, but also through the aesthetic features of our campus,” said Lisa Ohmstead, the hospital’s public relations manager.
Added Joyce Hyde, who has been a volunteer art docent since 2004, “This could actually be an art destination, like Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Israel, with its Chagall-stained glass windows.”
On Jan. 19, Hyde will lead a special tour of the Sculpture Park to provide an opportunity for visitors to get “up close and personal” with the artworks, some of which may be harder to see as the hospital embarks on an extensive building program this summer.
Hyde is full of interesting stories about the park’s art and artists. She’ll tell you the secret behind the life-sized “Little Girl with Fishes” who dances in a fountain outside the hospital’s main entrance. She’ll lead you to fascinating pieces you never even noticed and show you how to put a spin on the kinetic sculptures, too.
You don’t have to be ill to come to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. This month, come for the art.
If you go
What: Free guided tour of Wolfstein Sculpture Park
Where: Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, 9888 Genesee Ave.
When: 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19
RSVP: (858) 626-6994
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