NYC Health + Hospitals on December 1, 2023, unveiled a new mural as part of the Community Mural Project, run by the health system’s Arts in Medicine department. Today’s mural, Healing in Community at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler, was developed by artist Rachel Fawn Alban through a series of photography workshops with community members, staff and patients. Healing in Community is one of nine new murals that have been created this year, building on the 26 murals created in the first wave of the Community Mural Project, which are featured in a new book, Healing Walls: New York City Health + Hospitals Community Mural Project 2019-2021. This program is made possible through the generous support of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.
Healing in Community is a tribute to the invaluable contributions of each person within the Coler community. Artist Rachel Fawn Alban conducted a series of visits at the facility engaging residents, volunteers, and staff in hands-on photography workshops. The culmination is a photomural featuring portraits of 34 members of the Coler community.
“Coler is an important long-term care and rehab facility in New York City’s public health system,” said Rick Luftglass, executive director of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “This beautiful mural will provide joy and solace to everyone who lives at Coler and to all who visit. This is the first photo mural in the growing array of community murals throughout NYC Health + Hospitals, and we are proud to have supported its creation.”
“Artists play a critical role in public health,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President of Arts in Medicine Larissa Trinder. “Our community mural artist, Rachel Fawn Alban, worked collaboratively with staff and residents to create a beautiful and lasting experience for their home, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler. Her medium of using photos to layer in a narrative about life’s journey has left a meaningful and lasting impact on our staff and residents.”
“These are the faces of Coler! This mural represents our diversity among professional staff and residents who embody strength, kindness, resilience and hope; essential elements in making our shared home the most unique place in the city,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler Chief Executive Officer Stephen Catullo, LNHA. “With this creative piece, community artist, Rachel Fawn Alban, has captured the essence of Coler’s spirit. These portraits of residents, clinicians, and many others, including our in-resident therapy dog, Momo, are all reminders that it takes a village to create a reliable support system built on trust, empathy and respect.”
“It has been an honor to work on this mural,” said muralist Rachel Fawn Alban. “I really enjoyed spending time on Roosevelt Island and getting to know everyone here during our photography workshops. It was important to me that the participants have their own meaningful, hands-on creative experiences with photography. The workshops also helped us develop familiarity and trust by the time I did the portraits. I think that resulted in stronger images and deeper engagement with the mural process and with each other. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the Community Mural Project. I hope Healing in Community inspires warm feelings, pride, and connection for the people who live and work here every day.”
Rachel Fawn Alban (@fawn_photos), based in Newark, NJ, is a photographer, writer, and educator whose photography is informed by her background in Art Therapy. Her portrait-making approach is characterized by collaboration, a focus on healing, and sensitivity to trauma. She is primarily known for documenting public art and collaborating with visual artists.
The Community Mural Project is believed to be the country’s largest public hospital mural program since the 1930s, when the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) commissioned murals in public buildings, including virtually every hospital in New York City’s public healthcare system. The WPA murals were the start of the NYC Health + Hospitals art collection, which now is the city’s largest public art collection and includes more than 7,000 pieces of art of multiple disciplines. The art collection is used to enhance the healthcare environment, inspire creativity, promote wellness, increase access to the arts, and engage staff.
The Community Mural Project creates opportunities for hospital staff to collaborate with neighbors, relieve stress, and enhance the physical environment of the facilities. Healthcare worker burnout is a national health crisis, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has created mental health challenges across New York City, especially in low-income, immigrant and historically excluded communities, which are significant patient populations for NYC Health + Hospitals.