New community mural at Harlem Hospital

Healing Portraits at NYC Health + Hospitals-Harlem by artist Tijay Mohammed.
Photo courtesy: NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals last Thursday unveiled a new mural at Harlem Hospital as part of the Community Mural Project run by the health system’s Arts in Medicine Department.

NYC Health + Hospitals said artist Tijay Mohammed developed the mural, “Healing Portraits,” through a series of focus groups with community members, staff and patients.

The mural was “brought to life at a paint party, where the community was invited to paint the mural together,” NYC Health + Hospitals said.

It said “Healing Portraits” is one of nine new murals that have been created in the past 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.”

“Healing Portraits pays homage to the vibrant Harlem community and medical pioneers who have left an indelible mark on Harlem,” NYC Health + Hospitals said.

It said notable figures include Ronald H. Brown, the first black US Secretary of Commerce and Chair of the Democratic National Committee, whose name graces one of the pavilions at Harlem Hospital.

Dr. Luis T. Wright, the first African American physician on Harlem Hospital’s staff, and Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, an innovator in organ transplants, are also featured.

NYC Health + Hospitals said the lower left panel celebrates Dr. Muriel Petioni, a prominent Harlem physician and activist, while elements such as a food truck, museum, and religious symbols reflect the neighborhood’s rich diversity and spirit of support.

The central top panel showcases pediatric care, nurturing, and community healing, while the center-bottom panel depicts children, musical notes, and Taino symbols, emphasizing the neighborhood’s diversity and unity, NYC Health + Hospitals said.

To the right, it said the lower panel commemorates the pivotal moment when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was admitted to Harlem Hospital after being shot, alongside the three doctors who provided his care, “highlighting the values of non-violence and unity.”

“Healing Portraits stands as a powerful symbol of the community’s resilience and its dedication to healing, unity, and a brighter future,” NYC Health + Hospitals said.

“NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem provides essential healthcare services to all who need them regardless of their circumstances,” said Laurie Tisch, founder and president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “Tijay Mohammed’s new mural Healing Portraits joins murals at Harlem Hospital created as part of NYC Health + Hospitals’ Community Mural program as well as important WPA murals dating back to the 1930s. It celebrates historic figures in Harlem as well as the extraordinary diversity of the community. Healing Portraits will bolster pride in the neighborhood and hospital and bring joy and comfort to everyone who sees it. We are proud to have supported its creation.”

“Artist Tijay Mohammed incorporated the diverse ideas and experiences of the Harlem community in this mural,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President of Arts in Medicine Larissa Trinder. “Healing Portraits reflects a world rich in the arts and sciences. It includes spiritual and political leaders, children and symbols that quite literally create an immersive experience for everyone that walks into the hospital. The unique el fresco nature of this work guides one’s vision to the sky and creates hope for all who pass through.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem stands tall as a Beacon of Light in the Harlem Community,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem CEO Georges Leconte. “As you walk through the doors of the Ronald H. Brown Pavilion, you cannot help but experience the power of the murals, which tell the story of Harlem’s rich culture and heritage with beautiful depictions of notable Harlem legends and popular landmarks. Every patient can see themselves in the diverse representations throughout each panel. Art is healing! Knowing that our patients get to gaze upon the beauty of these remarkable murals while visiting our facility gives me the assurance that every single patient’s needs will be met thoroughly because art and medicine have healing power.”

“The process of creating this piece is nutrition, from listening to the focus group to the community paint party,” said Mohammed. “I hope this mural serves as a healing talisman for Harlem and beyond.”