Two Brooklyn hospitals are about to get some awesome murals

A mural project at NYC hospitals will mix care with craft.

July 19, 2019 Kelly Mena
A Kelie Bowman mural. Photo courtesy of Kelie Bowman
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Hoping to make residents care more about their local health centers, the city’s public hospital network is starting by making the centers more interesting to look at. To do so, they are enlisting the help of muralists.

The Arts and Medicine Program under NYC Health + Hospitals announced nine artists on Thursday that will participate in the collaborative art project at eight hospitals across the five boroughs, including Brooklyn’s Coney Island and Kings County hospitals.

The project is part of a larger effort by the city’s public health care system to re-imagine hospitals and facilitate greater neighborhood wellness that was first started in the 1930s. The program aims to promote an interest in health care while working against the stigma of sickness.

“It is clear from decades of research that the arts promote healing in many important ways. The arts help celebrate shared history and culture, promote physical healing, reduce stress and support mental health,” said Eric Wei, doctor and vice president of the public health system, in a press release.

The artists, chosen from a pool of more than 100 applicants, will engage with patients, staff and community residents to create an integrated internal or external mural within the hospital’s facility, according to the announcement.

The artist chosen for Coney Island is Kelie Bowman, a Florida native who tends to work in geometric shapes with an affinity for bright colors, according to her website. She has a history of urban mural projects and is a co-founder and director of Cinders Gallery, a nonprofit art organization based in the borough.

Kelie Bowman mural on a Brooklyn rooftop. Photo courtesy Kelie Bowman.

“My mural work has always allowed me to reach a larger audience, and I am interested in broadening those opportunities. I have experienced murals as an amazing tool that enables communities to further connect to their neighborhood,” Bowman told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The artist selected for Kings County hospital is Oscar Lett, a Paris-London-New York-based artist and muralist who specializes in street art that is self-described as having a European background with a mix of Asian influences.

Oscar Lett mural center. Photo via Oscar Lett website

“Having spent a great deal of time in hospitals as a patient, I am thrilled to be able to come back as an artist this time, and contribute to improve the way people experience and see hospitals,” Lett told the Eagle.

The project is funded in part by a $1.5 million award through the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, with the intent of allowing the public hospital system to use the arts as a resource to promote wellness.

“With vibrant expressions of color, imagination and culturally meaningful symbols, the community murals will produce, naturally, those surges of pleasure and distraction that reduce pain and frustration,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray in a public statement.

This is the first installation of the project, which the hospital system plans to expand in the coming years to other facilities, including Woodhull hospital. The mural-making projects are slated to start Aug. 1 and run through the end of the year.

“These murals will be a lasting testament to the power of art to bring communities together, reduce stigma and improve lives,” said Laurie Tisch, founder and president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, in a statement.

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