Scott Community College honors student paints large-scale mural to bring hope to hospital patients.
In Genesis West’s Behavioral Health unit, stands the largest recreational room in 2 North. Although the room is used for a myriad of things—group meetings, art classes, mealtime, spiritual care—there was nothing on the four walls that enclosed it. Just beige paint.
This is exactly how Scott Community College (SCC) Associate in Arts student, Bobby McNamar, remembered the space while visiting a family member some years ago. So much so, it stuck with him long after the visiting hours were over.
“Hospitals in general are very monotone. They are here to fix and help, but there’s no real color,” said McNamar. “Color has been used to heal people for centuries and it’s helped me—just dealing with personal issues.”
These ‘personal issues,’ as McNamar detailed, forced him to become well acquainted with the inside walls of a hospital room. Throughout his lifetime, he has miraculously survived four different cancer diagnoses and a life-threatening case of H1N1, causing him to lose half of his memory from a medically-induced coma.
Faced with taking each day in stride, McNamar returned to SCC as an undecided, non-traditional student. It wasn’t until he took an Introduction to Art Appreciation course with Art Instructor, Robert Lipnick, that he gained a new perspective.
“That class made me understand that I really like art, more than I thought I would,” he recalled.
McNamar excelled in his studies, eventually landing him a spot in the college’s Honors Program. It was there that he was given an assignment to experiment with his art degree. Almost instantly, he had the idea.
“I wanted to do something, change something.”
The very next day he punched in the nine-digit phone number of Genesis West’s Behavioral Health unit with a proposal: to paint a large-scale mural.
As luck would have it, McNamar eventually got in contact with the Director of Impatient Behavior Health at Genesis West, Angela Ganzer-Bovitz. She took McNamar’s idea to the hospital’s monthly board meeting and was able to get the project approved.
As the old adage goes, the rest was history.
Making light of the situation, McNamar joked, “I think that I asked enough times that they put me in touch with her just to get rid of me.”
COMING FULL CIRCLE
Through a series of four window frames, each representing a passing season, the visitors, healthcare professionals and patients of the Behavioral Health unit can take in the greens of spring, the blues of summer, the auburns of fall and the whites of winter.
“Seasons always come and go, just like life in a cycle. You might hit a cold time or bad time, like wintertime, but spring is still around the corner. It’s where things bloom again, so there’s always hope.”
Taking over 30 hours to complete, McNamar’s mural measures over 13 feet wide and four feet tall. Everything, from the lake that flows through the middle of the mural to the snow caps on the hills, were entirely McNamar’s vision.
“I found out I really like painting big,” he explained. “It lets you expand and experiment with stuff. The entire process was just painted with the colors red, blue, yellow, white and black.”
He credits his SCC instructors for teaching him all the skills needed to do such a large-scale project. The entire mural was completed with the work of some paintbrushes and a few sponges.
“In Painting I and II, you start with black and white colors, but the world isn’t black and white,” said McNamar. “Every color on the mural started with a primary color. You’re taught that primary colors make up everything, but it’s one thing to think it, and it’s another thing to do it. So when you do it, it’s something else.”
McNamar even witnessed something that profoundly touched him. While working on the mural, papers that were left behind from the patients’ art therapy sessions, appeared to mirror his mural.
“Art inspires. After about the four to five-week mark, I noticed people were doing some drawings that I hadn’t seen before. They were these full-color landscapes with intricate details, including rainbows, flowers and rivers.”
With this as his driving force, McNamar hopes to expand his murals to other hospitals and wings in the Quad Cities area, bringing color to an otherwise dark time in someone’s life.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.”