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Piedmont Arthritis Clinic offers a showcase of local art

Someone once said that a painting without a wall is like a book that’s never been opened. That’s why Greenville physician and avid art collector Dr. Jeffrey Lawson made sure that his rheumatology practice had plenty of wall space.

Dr. Lawson opened Piedmont Arthritis Clinic in 1979 – about the time Greenville’s arts community began to really feel its oats. The mid 1980s ushered in events like Art in The Park in Cleveland Park and downtown’s RiverPlace Arts Festival – the forerunner to Artisphere, giving local artists outlets beyond area galleries to showcase and sell their works. During his term as president of RiverPlace, Dr. Lawson put out a call for walls, encouraging banks, businesses, restaurants, hospitals and theatres around town to display local art.

“Visual artists need access to walls, so I thought it was important to try to encourage business and industry to display local art to help stimulate our area arts community,” Dr. Lawson said.

At last count, Piedmont Arthritis Clinic has nearly 120 works on display in its reception area, waiting room, hallways, offices, exam rooms, clinical trials suite and infusion suite. Many of the works were acquired from local galleries and at events such as Open Studios, First Friday and Artisphere. Others have been contributed by fellow physician and collector Dr. Josette Johnson.

“Dr. Johnson is more into modern art and I like landscapes,” Dr. Lawson says. “There’s a little something for everyone here.”

Patients, too, have added to the Piedmont Arthritis Clinic collection, from a Chinese art scroll to a caricature of Dr. Lawson in a basketball uniform from his beloved Clemson University.

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Dr. Lawson’s long association with Greenville’s arts community was reinforced by his wife, Mary, who served as a fundraiser at the Greenville County Museum of Art for 28 years. And an exercise during his participation in Leadership Greenville X emphasized even more the need for a strong arts community.

“The exercise was a simulated society,” Dr. Lawson explains. “We were split into four color-coded groups – the green group had money, blue had a workforce, yellow had manufacturing and business and the red group had nothing. The red group formed a dance troupe and started making puzzles to raise money. They were aghast when the other groups voted to give them money for the arts to help stimulate the community.”

The collection at Piedmont Arthritis Clinic features Upstate artists such as Lynn Greer, Charlie Pate, Dumah Morgan and John Pendarvis. There are landscapes, beach scenes, local scenes, abstracts, modern art and a lot more. One patient favorite is a paper mache mannequin acquired at Artisphere that the staff named Hans.

“I like unusual pieces and Hans spoke to me because of what we do here – treating diseases to give patients better use of their hands,” Dr. Lawson said.

Other favorites are found in the infusion suite where patients spend a good bit of time. In a nod to those who have been treated for Lyme disease, there is a landscape of Lyme, Connecticut, the namesake for Lyme disease. The suite also houses a large bronze sculpture of workers sitting on a steel beam set against a photograph taken high above a city skyline.

“The arts have made a huge difference in Greenville,” Dr. Lawson said. “Look at all the sculptures around downtown now, the galleries, the artist workspaces, the art in public places and the arts in schools programs. All of that makes this a vibrant community.”

And access to walls definitely helps.

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