New community mural unveiled at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens

Photo courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens

NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens in Jamaica unveiled its new community mural Wednesday, Nov. 15. Created by Bangladeshi American artist and Jamaica native Zeehan Wazed, the mural, titled “Roots of Medicine,” wraps around the second floor main atrium of the hospital.

Photo courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens

As the title of the mural suggests, Roots of Medicine portrays eight flowers used in homeopathic medicine: calendula, lavender, chamomile, echinacea, flax seeds, rose petals, St. John’s Wort and nasturtium. In addition to welcoming patients and visitors, the flowers in this mural impart knowledge about the profound legacy of homeopathic remedies and the foundational roots of medicine.

Lavender can promote calm and relaxation, chamomile can provide digestive relief, calendula can be used for anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties, echinacea can boost the immune system, flax seeds can support heart health and improve digestion, rose petals can be soothing and offer mild astringent qualities, St. John’s Wort can be used to alleviate mild to moderate depression and anxiety and nasturtiums are rich in vitamin C, making them useful towards fortifying one’s immune system.

“I was really passionate about painting a mural for Queens Hospital because I grew up a few blocks away,” Wazed said. “When I broke my fingers, my dad brought me to the Queens Hospital ER – the same fingers I used to paint this mural today. I wanted to have a diversity of flowers representing the diversity we have at Queens Hospital and the vines represent how we all intertwine and connect with each other. Thank you to NYC Health + Hospitals for this amazing opportunity.”

Created as part of the Community Mural Project by the hospital’s Arts in Medicine department, Roots of Medicine had a lot of thought put into it. Wazed developed the mural through a series of focus groups with community members, staff and patients. He then brought it to life at a paint party, where the community was invited to paint the mural together.

“Zeehan’s mural is a large-scale immersive experience that brings the natural world inside the busy lobby of Queens Hospital,” NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President of Arts in Medicine Larissa Trinder said. “This evidence-based installation considered the flora and fauna that contribute to medicinal healing and combined them with soft colors that soothe. We consider murals a healthcare service for their positive impact on public health and are proud to present this mural to the Queens community today.”

This is just one of nine new murals created this year across several NYC Health + Hospital locations as part of the Community Mural Project. In 2022, 26 murals were created in the first wave of the project, which was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, a nonprofit that seeks to improve access and opportunity for all New Yorkers and foster healthy and vibrant communities. The first 26 murals are now featured in a new book, Healing Walls: New York City Health + Hospitals Community Mural Project 2019-2021.

“NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens is a vital and vibrant health anchor for the entire community,” Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Executive Director Rick Luftglass said. “”Zeehan Wazed’s mural, Roots of Medicine, is a beautiful addition to the hospital and is a powerful example of how NYC Health + Hospitals’ Arts in Medicine program uses the arts to benefit staff, patients and the surrounding community. We’re proud to have helped make it possible.”

The Community Mural Project is one of the largest public hospital mural programs in the United States 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 art collection at NYC Health + Hospitals, which is now the city’s largest public art collection, with over 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 project creates opportunities for hospital staff to collaborate with each other, as well as with neighbors, to relieve stress and enhance the physical environment of the facilities. Healthcare worker burnout is a national health crisis, with the COVID-19 pandemic having created mental health challenges across New York City. This is especially the case in low-income, immigrant and historically excluded communities, which are significant patient populations for NYC Health + Hospitals.

“The community mural project is an endeavor that is positive and enlightening for our staff and patient family and is designed to promote a sense of healing and calm upon entering our facility,” NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens Chief Executive Officer Neil J. Moore, MBA, MPA, FACHE, said. “We are excited and gratified that local artist Zeehan Wazed has contributed his multifaceted talent to this project and thrilled to learn that he has spent many years of his life growing up in this very community. I am confident that the end result – this colorful and lively completed mural – will inspire joy, optimism and a deeply felt appreciation for everyone who takes in its beauty.”

The foremost mission of NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens is to provide quality, comprehensive care to all members of the public regardless of their ability to pay. It first opened its doors as Queens General Hospital in 1935. Encompassing 360,000 square feet, it features 253 licensed beds, spacious ambulatory care suites featuring both primary and specialty services and cutting-edge equipment. To learn more about NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens, visit nychealthandhospitals.org/queens.

The Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals seeks to foster the emotional well-being and promote healing and wellness for all patients and their families, employees and the greater community by utilizing the literary, visual and performing arts throughout the health care system. The department manages the system’s significant visual arts collection. Additionally, it encourages evidenced based practices and provides technical assistance to all of the system’s health care facilities and clinics. Artistic innovation and education are combined into a comprehensive health care continuum that supports the healing benefits of the arts. For more information, visit nychealthandhospitals.org/artsinmedicine.