Artists put 'heart' into everything they're creating
By JOAN L. BOIKO Palm Desert Post
"I've lived in five countries in the world, but this is the first time I've ever been inside of a heart,"
said Cameron Jeans, as she "walked through" the heart at the Heart Institute of the Desert
Foundation a couple of weeks ago. It's absolutely marvelous.
Such is the reaction of many of the visitors to the museum, an interactive facility under the
auspices of the Heart Institute of the Desert Foundation in Rancho Mirage.
It's goal is to educate
patrons about heart disease and reduce heart disease mortality.
And that's just what the two artists who have created the museum exhibits are working to do.
Adam Rubinstein, has been with the facility since its inception. His partner in creation, Mark
Molchan, has been with the operation for five years. Together, the duo have managed to create
11 interactive exhibits with lone common theme running through them heart education.
The goal is to reduce the mortality rate of heart disease to educate about prevention of heart
disease," said Rubinstein, a Palm Springs resident.
Rubinstein, who actually majored in medical illustration at Ohio State University and Columbus
College of Art and Design, was hired to begin the museum, a $500,000 operation funded by the
Heart Institute of the Desert Foundation the non-profit arm of the Heart Institute of the Desert.
WALK THIS WAY
You enter the museum through the giant heart valve, which took a year to create out of silicone and urethane foam covered with a fiberglass skin. Once inside," you'll find a series of exhibits: there's the plaque attack," created by both artists, which actually takes the visitor through a plaque attack on the inside wall of the arteries. Lights and electronics show the movement and stress caused by the invasion of plaque.
Keep walking, you'll find an exhibit which outlines the risk factors of heart disease. Through a
series of questions visitors get to answer, you can find out what your risks are for heart disease.
Then there's information on blood cells including a film and test following the film. When you
get a wrong answer, the portion of the film with the right answer is shown again for
A diet and cholesterol exhibit in the shape of a pear and includes videos on diet as it relates to heart disease. Moving on there are exhibits on congestive heart failure and blood pressure, pulmonary edema and a "Voyage Through the Heart," from the vantage point of a blood cell. The "Sounds of the Heart" display actually records your heart beat. You can listen to it, and then compare it with the sounds of a healthy heartbeat, and various abnormal heartbeats.
A smoking exhibit depicts cigarettes being stamped out. Smoke still rises from the glowing
embers. On the display are three videos, one for children about smoking, one for adults about
smoking and heart disease and a third on tips for quitting smoking.
And the "piece de resistance," Rubinstein and Molchan's newest creation the "giant animatronic
beating heart." Step up to the artwork, press one of the buttons indicating a section of the heart to be highlighted, and watch and listen. You'll see a portion of the organ light up and beat, and
you'll hear what probably will be a familiar voice-Del Sharbutt, former radio announcer and
coiner of the Campbell's Soup "Mmm Mmm Good" slogan. Sharbutt explains the portion of the
heart you've selected and what its function is. Keep moving around and pressing buttons, there
are a lot of them and a lot of information to be had. The piece of art even simulates an actual
Rubinstein said it took the duo about two years to complete the project from beginning to end
three months to mold and cast it in silicone, six months to sculpt it and a couple of months to
wire the "arteries." The project, which cost about $50,000 without labor, was funded by the
The response to Rubinstein and Molchan's work, especially their newest artwork, bas been quite
positive, they reported. "Dr. (Jack) Sternlieb (director and founder of the Heart Institute of the Desert) really likes it," said Molchan "He's a visionary kind of guy, so he digs this stuff. Everyone is pretty much amazed by it."
The artists said they are currently trying to get each and every exhibit to become
"interactive" in some way. While most already are there are a few that simply involving watching or listening, without the visitor having the opportunity to touch or feel.
The more interaction, the more the message will stick, say the creators. Currently Rubinstein and Molchan are working in an overhaul to the Institute's 124-seat theater. Currently just your typical auditorium, where films including "How To Beat A Heart Attack" and "I'm Joe's Heart" are shown daily, Rubinstein said plans are in the works to make a three dimensional theater, with a working title of "Heart Max 3D""as of right now.
There are other ideas these gentlemen have but are not at liberty to discuss because the haven't passed through the proper channels first."Dr. Sternlieb is consulted on all the information we're going to use. He changes it, adds to it, reviews it for content. Some programs we buy are pre-packaged; others we produce ourselves. And we are governed by a board of directors too," said Rubinstein. But while that might sound restricting, the artists actually have a lot of free reign to create.
Their office has moved from the basement of the Institute, on Bob Hope Drive adjacent to the Eisenhower campus, up to the glassed in area behind in the rear of the theater. Inside their digs, you'll find drawers filled with sketches and lots of art-related materials and computer equipment. As a medical illustration major, Rubinstein came to his current job with a broad knowledge of anatomy and how everything in the body works. "I studied gross anatomy, human physiology, the body and the disease process, but no actual medicine," said Rubinstein. Molchan, on the other hand, said he didn't know as much about it but he is currently entrenched in on a daily basis. "I took anatomy classes in art school, but they were pretty basic," he said."Mostly just muscles and bones." Both men acknowledge that they've learned a lot through their work. But do they eat healthier now that they've seen, close-up and personal, what smoking and poor eating habits can do to the precious heart and its relating body systems.
Walking through the Heart Institute of the Desert Foundation Museum, you might think the artists have covered all bases and couldn't possibly do anymore.
"We have an expansion area on the back side of the museum and are planning an additional
2,000 square feet of exhibit space," said Rubinstein adding that funds are currently being raised
to pay for the expansion. "We would like to have it done by December of next year, but that
depends on the money." What more could they possibly cover? "More exhibits about the heart,"
answers Rubinstein enthusiastically. "The pacing system, how the heart nervous system works." Both artists are enjoying the work they are doing right now and always look forward to the next project. "I'm proud of what I'm doing here." said Rubinstein
adding that he also has an interest in short film animation. "Producing quality art work is why I
get up in the morning, and go to work."
"After I finish something there's a weird feeling I have. I have to do something else right away.
Some people say nice things. I've had a call from England from a person who visited and wanted
to know how they could start (a heart museum) there. That makes me feel good, that someone
was impressed enough to want to start one."
"People say 'wow, that sounds really cool' when I tell them what I do," added Molchan whose
work at the Museum is his first job out of college. "They say, 'it must be fulfilling.' To an extent I
feel that way. My background is actually in 2-dimensional art, painting and drawing. This is
kind of an extension of that. But I'm always somewhat frustrated and feel like I want to be doing
When you walk into the Museum, there won't be anyone there to collect your admission. But if
you're honorable, you will drop in the $2.50 suggested donation (or more) into the red lucite
heart slot. The suggested donation for children is $1.00 each.
Since the museum opened about five years ago, over 136,000 have walked through the heart.
Many have been classes of school pupils on educational field trips. What better way to cover a
lesson on anatomy or the circulatory system? Tours are available, and you can even stick around
for lunch at the "Heart Beat" cafe where you're assured not find any artery clogging selections.
"I think it's phenomenal," said Jeans who was visiting the facility with her husband, a Heart
Institute patient. "It's just awesome."