This project came about through Jo, a med student at Brown University who asked a classmate, Natalie, to do some type of project to spruce up the temporary psych ward at the Rhode Island Hospital. After many months and much ado, we decided on a collaborative project between art students at RISD to collectively paint a nature-inspired mural on one of the main walls of the ward. The painting had to consist of cool, soothing colors and imagery so as not to further disturb the patients. Images from nature were collected and compiled into a large collage by Natalie, and on the day of the project we projected the image onto the wall, composing as we went along.


In the begining tension was high between students and patients, not knowing what to expect from one another and nervous over the differnces we held. (remember, this is mixing pretty isolated art school students with Rhode Island locals, sadly an uncommon medely). But as different students came and went throughout the day, and the painting developed, patients chimed in with opinions, advice, and critiques.

Before long, patients and students were painting side-by-side, and an open dialogue was born.


Photos below attempt to document the experience, unfortunately patients were not alloud in photographs.

crew 1


The first Crew of the Day, 10 am.

A bird comes to fruition on the right.




Jo, the med student who spured the whole project comes to see how things are getting along.






Miles contemplates his next color.






Alessandra concentrates on details.





The mural begins to become an emsemble of organic shapes, melting from abstract to illustrative, depending on the hand behind the brush.





You can get more of a feel for the ward here, very sterile aside from the new painting.





With the help of patients imput and brushes (who snuck into this picture but faces are blured), the mural spontaneously evolves. We find out the man on the left has been painting his whole life to calm his nerves, and soon enough the woman on the right begins serenading us with beautifully sung Disney songs. She spends the majority of the day with us and becomes very keen on Seth (in the striped shirt). She also critiques the birds to help us make them look kinder.





The final mural, the last crew, and the director of the ward, Matt. This shot is taken from a sitting area were many patients gathered throughout the day to watch, discuss, and sing as others painted alongside us.







Ultimately, the process of making and interacting with new people living in very different circumstances became more important than the mural itself. Patients declared the birds on the wall of the ward were lovely and did brighten up the place, but it seemed more vauable to them to have had an event to break their monotony. The mural became a catalyst to promote interaction and dialogue that otherwise would never have taken place outside of this context.



I would like to pursue more collaborative, event-like, and interactive projects of this nature in the future. Contact me with requests and/or ideas.