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Acupuncture Today
July, 2010, Vol. 11, Issue 07
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Public Art, City Planning and AOM

By Cynthia Hoff, MAT, MAOM, LAc

If you visit Portland, Ore., in the next few months, be sure to see the city-wide public art installation by local artist Adam Kuby. His exhibit explores the connection between art, regional planning, traditional Chinese medicine and having a healthy city.

From May 2010 to October 2010, fifteen 35-foot acupuncture needle sculptures will be placed in strategic locations throughout the city.

The point (pun intended) of the Portland Acupuncture Project is to look at how our decisions and actions impact our neighborhoods and city. In 2008, Kuby brainstormed the project with acupuncturists, city planners, ecologists, other artists, writers and the general public. The outcome is this exhibit that views the city in the same way Chinese medicine might; as a physical body that's energetically and spiritually integrated. Kuby says, "There are places where the city's qi is flowing or blocked, deficient or overactive. There are places that are congested or neglected, as well as places full of vitality, serenity and beauty."

The project is a beautiful illustration of the principles of holistic medicine that an acupuncturist uses when determining where to place needles during a treatment session Plans to deal with the city's challenges must not only get at the root of the problem while treating the symptoms, but they must also prevent future disease. In a nutshell, this is the very essence of holistic, medical treatment philosophy.

By creating a visual link to highlight the city's challenges and assets, the project links the health of the individual and the health of the city. One of the places most desperately in need of a needle is Portland's Columbia River Crossing. Planning negotiations for the new bridge transit and highway improvement project for five miles of Interstate 5 seem to be deadlocked. Kuby hopes to place a needle between the bridge spans.

To highlight one of Portland's greatest assets, a needle will be placed at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the Willamette River. Kuby has named this point Swimmable River. He explained, "A recent survey revealed that people want the river to be clean enough to swim in again. Given that the river becomes cleaner and cleaner every year, I definitely feel it is possible."

The needle sculptures themselves are an engineering feat. Each is made of 350 pounds of steel and six yards of copper spandex. They are able to withstand winds of up to 80 mph. This high-tensile steel is super strong yet light enough to be lifted manually.

It is fitting that Portland would be home to such a project. It is a city that consistently ranks as one of the most livable places in the United States.

The Oregon Association of Acupuncturists and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM) is raising visibility of the exhibit as a means to promote the profession both locally and nationally. The project is supported by the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the Oregon Arts Commission and the Northwest Health Foundation.

In addition to the support provided by the organizations listed above, individuals have provided support from as far away as Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and Maine. Kuby said, "I've received wonderful letters with checks for as little as $5 and as much as $500 from people who believe in this project's ability to create dialogue about the connection between the health of a city and its inhabitants using the metaphor of Chinese medicine." To learn more about the project and to see pictures please go to

Cynthia Hoff practices in Portland, Ore., and specializes in treating pain, eye conditions such as macular degeneration and women's health, stress management and health care for seniors. She may be contacted at


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