“If I can lift you today,
You will look back,
And grab the hands of a thousand more.”
These lines from a Native American poet gave inspiration to artist Gary Lee Price, who gave life to the words in the form of an awe-inspiring 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture that rests in the main lobby at the Futures of Palm Beach residential treatment facility. The 2,700-pound monument, called “Ascent,” depicts one individual with an arm outstretched to lift up another. Beyond how eye-catching it is, the artwork carries an important theme for patients in the 30-day program.
“It illustrates the ability of one person to pick up another person,” says clinical director John C. Maguire. “We communicate that it shows strength and not weakness as someone gets you out of the hole. All of the different groups and sessions we do involve the principle of relying on one another.”
While Ascent is clearly the artwork most commented on by Futures patients and visitors, it is not the only striking piece of art at the northern Palm Beach County facility. One member of the family that owns Futures' parent company essentially selected all of the art for the facility, which opened primarily as an eating disorders center two years ago but has transitioned into mainly a residential alcohol and drug addiction treatment program with a capacity of just over 70 beds.
“If art wasn't on the walls, this would feel more like an institution,” says Maguire. He says patients in Futures' average age group of 30 and above tend to respond more to the art than the younger patients.
The theme of Ascent is woven into much of what is communicated to patients. “We say to patients that they impact others and others impact them,” says Maguire. In addition, staff often encourages patients to build up fellow patients, not bring them down.
Family members who visit the facility start conversations about the imposing artwork as well. “Families are often particularly struck by the meaning of this majestic work of art,” Futures staff members wrote in a posting for the facility website. “Some family members comment about who's pulling up who. We're particularly touched when they see Futures as the place that not only pulled up their loved one, but pulled them up too.” The website states that the Utah-based artist is also in recovery.
Other aspects of the Futures site add to the sense of calm that the program tries to convey. Maguire says the building centers around a courtyard that serves as a welcoming place for patients to congregate, amid a koi pond and swimming pool. One of the group rooms doubles as a library and evening gathering spot. A game room offers opportunities for sober fun, Maguire says.
Also near the main entrance are situated a number of musical instruments, including a baby grand piano. “Once in a while you'll hear a patient playing the piano—they may not have played for a while because of their addiction,” says Maguire. “Later, some will start teaching others.” The lifting up happens anew.