Art Student Brings Her Talent to the New Medical Education Building
Art Student Brings Her Talent to the New Medical Education Building

Every weekday, Ann Diggins, director of student affairs and career services, walks by a splash of color that she helped bring to the recently opened Kirk Kerkorian Medical Education Building (MEB). The pop of color, hanging on the third floor of MEB just off the Dr. Barbara Atkinson Forum, is a painting by UNLV art major Ellie Rush titled “Better Together,” a gift from the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV class of 2022 that embodies the theme of diversity, inclusion and acceptance.

“The dean and the office of student affairs always intended that there would be a class gift for each of the graduating classes. So, the class of 2022, our second graduating class, was the first class with which we were able to do that,” Diggins says.

A committee of representatives from the medical school, UNLV’s art department, and UNLV main campus made a group decision that a made sense for this first gift. Thus, the class of 2022 commissioned the first painting to hang in MEB.

The committee then put out a call for submissions for UNLV student artwork.  Rush says that “friends and friends of friends sent me the opportunity,” and she felt inspired to submit her art.

The theme resonated with Rush who says, “I really wanted to focus on UNLV being one of the most diverse schools in the country. Particularly, here in Vegas we have so much diversity, generally, but within the medical community, as well. I really wanted to make sure that everyone was represented in some way.”

Armed with inspiration and a paintbrush, Rush got to work capturing the positivity that medical students and professionals bring to their communities, especially within the past several years. Rush says, “Medical professionals really shined during the pandemic. They’re the ones treating those who are ill, but they also support their communities emotionally. Likewise, local communities came around to emotionally support them.”

In pale pinks, reds, and blues, Rush’s painting captures these moments of support among a diverse group of doctors, students, and patients.

As she worked on “Better Together,” Rush received guidance from UNLV art professors Sean Slattery and Tim Bavington. “I  have to thank Sean over and over for all of his help with the process and guiding me through a lot of things I was doing for the first time and Tim for letting me nurture that creative side of the project.”

Slattery commends Rush’s piece for its “sophisticated sense of composition.”

Artfully portraying multiple scenes on the canvas represents a hopeful future for the school of medicine, according to Slattery who says “She didn’t want to tell just one story because there are so many stories.” Nichole Staker, interior designer and senior project manager in the architecture and interior design department of UNLV planning and construction, also commends Slattery for his help, saying, “Sean was wonderful in his mentorship and even assisted Ellie in building the stretcher for the piece.”

In Staker’s professional opinion, Rush’s painting is a perfect, even necessary, addition to MEB.

Installed this month, “Better Together” will be admired by MEB occupants and guests for years to come.

As for the class of 2023’s class gift, Diggins says, “We’ve already started talking with them about what kind of a gift they would like to leave their fellow students in the school as they go out the door.”

Photo: Courtesy of Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV: Art student Ellie Rush is the creator behind the painting, “Better Together,” which now hangs in the Kirk Kerkorian Medical Education Building.

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