It’s a trend seen in many hospitals lately-moving away from an institutional feeling and adding touches that make the surroundings more inviting. Methodist Medical Center is a good example of that movement, with its new mural adorning the walls of the recently expanded Behavioral Health Unit.

The new unit, which opened July 1, underwent expansion to fill a void created by the closures of other local behavioral health units, said Behavioral Health Services Director Dean Steiner. "We determined that we would need 26 additional adult beds and two additional beds dedicated to children/adolescents. We also spent a significant amount of time planning the physical layout for the unit, including aesthetics and safety features. We worked with our interior designer and a muralist to help us create the atmosphere we wanted. Our overall goal was to have this unit be a soothing, healing environment, and based on the feedback we’ve received, we were able to accomplish that."

Much of the credit goes to Jean Filson, a Eureka resident who’s been a decorative painter and muralist for nine years. "I got involved with Methodist Medical Center through one of my residential customers. She gave my name to Methodist about five years ago as they were opening the Women’s Health Center (diagnostic center). I’ve been doing various projects for them ever since. Some have been small projects, like the mobile mammogram unit, and some large projects like this one."

Steiner said Methodist decided to add a mural to the area during expansion because of previous success with the art form. "We have several smaller murals on our child and adolescent inpatient unit, and those were very well received. Our patients and families love the concept. When it came time to discuss specifics for the new unit, the idea of another mural was an easy decision."

He said Margie Lyons, the former Behavioral Health Services director, created the overall concept of the mural’s content. "We had two goals in mind with the mural: first and foremost, we wanted it to be colorful without being too bold or distracting-something soothing and refreshing. The second goal we had was to have the mural reflect the four seasons in central Illinois. Of course, Jean gets all the credit for the creativity and details that went into the mural. She did a wonderful job of getting the river, bluffs, farmland, etc. into the mural. Her attention to detail makes this project even better. She did a great job of transitioning the seasons; you can see the snow gradually disappear from winter into spring. She made sure there were things like spring flowers blooming in the winter/spring transition, pumpkins in our fall scene, hot air balloons in the summer scene, and deer with their tracks in the snow in our winter scene."

Filson explained some of the unit’s patients stay for an extended period of time, so it was decided to bring nature inside for them. "When you enter the Behavioral Health Unit, your attention is immediately caught. The contrast from the normal hospital environment into a park setting captures everyone’s eye. The bright summer green hues mixed with the serene blue sky depict an ideal river view scene. As you meander down the hallway towards the nurses’ station, the season begins to change into autumn. The center hallway running across your path depicts fall and its splendors. As you walk ahead, you see an evening winter scene melting into a bright spring sunrise at the end of the hall. The adjacent hall enraptures you with a park-like spring atmosphere."

While the design and implementation sounds difficult, Filson said the most challenging aspect of the project was the time frame. "I completed all 705 linear feet of this mural in eight short weeks. That’s a lot of walls to paint with a little bitty brush. As an artist, the most difficult decisions were what validates the time and what doesn’t. Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m notorious for taking on a good challenge-that’s what makes it fun. It was a painting marathon, and I loved it."

She isn’t the only one. "The mural has been met with rave reviews. Everyone who’s seen it has been complimentary. I think people are caught off guard-first of all by the color and the details, but I think it surprises people because they don’t expect to see this kind of artwork on a behavioral health unit. Jean truly helped us accomplish our goal of creating a soothing, healing environment," Steiner said.

Filson’s success with this project has led to discussions about future additions, Steiner said. "We’ve already been in contact with Jean to do some additional work for the unit. All of the work she’s done has been on our hallway walls. She’s going to return to do some smaller murals and pictures in our patient rooms."

It’s another challenge Filson said she looks forward to. "I’m proud of my work at Methodist Medical Center because it helps satisfy my desire as a person to help others in need. As an artist, it’s often difficult to achieve the feeling of satisfaction when your work is actually making a difference is peoples’ lives. I’m unable to do for them what the hospital and staff can do, but I can still help them by creating a spiritually healthy environment for their recovery. That makes me very happy." AA!