Return home

Local artists work to grace Nappi Wellness Institute

Philomena Lawrence, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 12/14/22

When naturalist Sue Kiesel shoots, she aims to capture inspiring images in nature that foster physical and emotional health.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Local artists work to grace Nappi Wellness Institute


When naturalist Sue Kiesel shoots, she aims to capture inspiring images in nature that foster physical and emotional health. Armed with her high-powered Nikon D500 or Z7 camera, the 77-year-old Sauquoit resident photographs stunning landscapes, wildlife, sunsets, and lush foliage. As she explains, “All of us need healing in one form or another.” Anxiety is the biggest problem society faces today, partly because we get so involved, so busy, we forget to take the time to stop, listen and closely observe the uplifting beauty in the environment around us.”

On most mornings, Kiesel rises around 5 a.m. and, with her trusty kayak in tow, heads for her favorite spot on one of the lakes near her family’s camp in the Adirondacks, where she takes pictures of the animals and birds as they come to the water’s edge to feed. She monitors her locations and times, giving her a vantage point for capturing close-up photos of wildlife, including moose, wood ducks and common loons.

Known as the “Spirit of Northern Waters,” loons are among Kiesel’s favorite subjects; she finds particular pleasure in photographing the chicks riding securely tucked under their mothers’ protective wings. “My window of opportunity is so short,” she points out, adding, “Within three weeks of hatching, loons have to learn how to fish on their own.”

An engaging photo of such a mother-and-chick duo gliding serenely on a lake is among Kiesel’s artwork chosen to grace the soon-to-be-completed Nappi Wellness Institute, located on the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University campus in Syracuse. The institute’s art committee chose 11 of Kiesel’s works in a competition earlier this year; they will be among 250 pieces of art – framed photographs and paintings, as well as murals – decorating the five-floor, 200,000-square-foot outpatient facility named after philanthropists Sam and Carol Nappi, who donated $8 million toward its construction.

Equipped to provide primary and specialty care (including geriatrics), behavioral health care, and social services for children, adults, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and refugees, the institute will include radiology, pharmacy and laboratory services.

“The patients will have just one building to go to for their health care,” states Matthew Capogreco, SUNY’s Director of Special Projects for Ambulatory Services.

He adds, “The soothing pictures and murals will make the experience of being in a hospital setting minimally stressful. Sue Kiesel’s pictures capture scenic and unique moments in nature — in the sky, on land and on the water. Even if you look at them a dozen times, you will find new depth and beauty in them each time.”

For those who are feeling depressed or emotionally stressed, Kiesel strongly encourages spending time surrounded by nature’s embrace. She describes sharing a quiet morning at the lake with a friend who was facing difficult family problems: “By the end of the visit, it was as if the tight rubber band around her had somehow eased; she sighed contentedly, and her spirits soared.”

The retired teacher and dedicated conservationist wants to show people how uplifting and healing nature can be, and also how important it is to protect the environment from a number of ongoing threats. Promoting awareness through slideshows of her work, Kiesel has discussed eco-friendly ways to lessen pollution to a wide range of audiences, from school-age children to members of Rotary International, Trout Unlimited, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. At these events, she disseminates information on the rapid loss of animal habitats, the number of species nearing extinction, and ways to minimize each person’s footprint on the environment. In recognition of her exemplary efforts, Kiesel has received awards from the New York State Outdoor Writers Association, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Ducks Unlimited, and the former Old Forge Arts Center, now known as View.

Reflecting on her “very gratifying” avocation, Kiesel expresses gratitude for her “God-given creative eye,” and for her parents, Harold and Lois Luther, who instilled in their three children an appreciation of the beauty and fragility of nature; she also shares her hopes that her photographs depicting nature’s wonderment will serve as a legacy for her own children and grandchildren. She can now add to that familial list the countless unnamed patients and their families who, thanks to her work, will feel as one with nature even within the walls of the Nappi Wellness Institute.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here