Leaders as Artists and Artists as Leaders

Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 12:45

Carl Coan detached recently from the lead executive role at Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center. He made elegant use of the occasion heralding his transition by using the clinic’s lobby to display a gallery of he and his wife, Neala’s, stunning photographs. His board chair and colleagues spoke with love and generosity about Carl’s professional accomplishments. When it was Carl’s turn to speak, he did so through the metaphor of art. To Herb Shultz, his successor as the clinic’s CEO, Carl passed along a symbolic conductor’s baton. Implicit in the hand-off was the notion that executive leadership is most often a matter of seeing, assembling and inspiring a symphony of talent.

Carl Coan Picture #3Carl’s photography curates a varied and delightful range of images. He’s interested in the ways people display and sometimes disparage the American flag. He evoked a sense of mystery with – and challenged others to interpret – a lone set of running shoes casually placed outdoors on a low wall. His study of Italian windows took the quotidian and elevated it to a joyous celebration of color, line and texture. A trip to Africa brought Carl face to face with a host of wild animals from whose gazes flow a timeless, mute cross-species curiosity.

The strength and variety of Carl’s collection compelled me to wonder, when the time is right and his distance from the day-to-day work is sufficient, what he might tell us about the vibrant confines of community clinic life. How would his art, informed by 24 years promoting health and treating disease, draw us deeply and mindfully into the exchange between physicians, nurses and their ailing patients? I would attend that show and trust Carl Coan as my guide.

Here’s to the artist in all of us, sometimes struggling to find expression and, if we’re as lucky as Carl, granting us the freedom to embrace life and extend our new insight to others.                                                                                                                              

 flamingo by Carl Coan

Photos by Carl Coan, Carl Coan Photography