Stephan Weiss: Connecting The Dots
Stephan Weiss had a particular ability to design the world around him, creating a striking balance from elements that seemed destined to be at odds with one another. When Donna Karan lost Stephan to lung cancer in 2001, she dedicated Urban Zen Foundation to continue weaving the world together with his unifying vision and the experiences they had shared. Thus was another transformation of what was once a repair and refueling station in the West Village of Manhattan to Stephan Weiss’s art studio & oasis to the Urban Zen Center. In the cyclical genius of life, Stephan perfected for us a space that would essentially become a sort of repair and refueling station all over again.
Stephan’s passing brought light to a fundamental void in the healthcare system, and the experience gave impetus to an idea that Donna and Stephan had been discussing for decades. Cancer has been a constant in Donna Karan’s life. “My mother. Anne Klein. My best friend Lynn Kohlman. And here, Stephan. We had the best doctors and medical resources to treat the cancer. But what about treating Stephan?” says Donna Karan. “As anyone who has been through it knows, you feel so helpless. As loved ones, we’re not trained in health care. There is no guide to call, no one to tell you what to do. Yet you’ll do anything to help.”
That experience led Donna, with the support of Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee, to create the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) Program. Much in the same fashion that Stephan found harmony in chaos, the UZIT program set out to bring dignity to the families, patients and doctors whose well-being’s are ravaged by the confrontation of illness day after day, and often with uncertainty of what the final outcome might be. The UZIT program was designed to compliment the care provided by western healthcare professionals in adding modalities such as yoga, acupuncture, Reiki, bodywork and nutrition to the experience of all individuals involved in dealing with illness. We continue to find inspiration in the life and work of Stephan Weiss and hope that his compassion lives through the efforts of Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program.