Arts In Medicine

In March 2020, as healthcare professionals and community members alike began feeling the deep and lasting impacts of COVID-19, New York City’s hospitals became the frontline in the daily battle against the pandemic. Today, as New Yorkers continue to practice safety measures to help control the spread of the virus, one program is promoting the health of neighborhoods in a different way.

The Community Mural project, created by Arts in Medicine—a program of NYC Health + Hospitals and the Mayor’s Fund with generous support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund—leverages artists and community members to reimagine hospitals to promote greater neighborhood wellness. Launched in 2019, nine artists developed eight murals in the program’s first year. The concepts for each of the murals are developed through individual, virtual focus groups with patients/residents, staff, and community members, and then brought to life in designated paint sessions. The collaborative mural-making process is a tool to encourage creativity, build trust and engagement between the hospitals and their communities, reduce stigma, and foster pride in the public health system through community-building activities.

Program data collected in 2019 showed that 99 percent of the individuals who participated in a Community Mural paint session—hospital staff and community members—felt proud to have the NYC Health + Hospitals facility in their community. Additionally, all of the staff members who attended the session said it made them feel part of the NYC Health + Hospitals team.

“Teamwork creates a masterpiece,” one attendee said.

In August 2020, Arts in Medicine announced the second group of artists to lead community-based mural projects inspired by the theme “Healthcare Heroes’ resilience and Strength Through COVID-19” at 10 facilities. The first completed mural of 2020 was unveiled at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx in September, followed by Gouverneur, Woodhull, and Gotham Health/Judson in October; Coler and Queens in November; and Lincoln in December.

The Community Mural Project is a flagship component of Arts in Medicine. Other projects include: Music and Memory, which brings personalized playlists on iPods to patients or residents with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other cognitive loss; the Lullaby Project, which pairs pregnant women and new mothers and fathers with professional artists to write and sing personal lullabies for their babies, supporting maternal health, aiding child development, and strengthening the bond between parent and child; and SoulCollage, which helps staff and patients access the subconscious or intuition using images from magazines and catalogs pasted together.