Emmanuel Martin, who lives in France and has worked on more than 80 Anouk Foundation projects, illustrates the shoreline of a mural painted in one of Newport Hospital’s staff break rooms this past October. Photo Credit: Bill Murphy/Lifespan

Behavioral health patients at Newport Hospital will enjoy a more inviting environment thanks to a first-of-its-kind art project.

The hospital is the first United States institution to have the Anouk Foundation paint therapeutic murals on its walls, according to a press release from Newport Hospital.

The Switzerland-based nonprofit works with a team of acclaimed artists who create specialized murals for facilities that include hospitals, homes for children, mental health centers, and migration centers. At Newport Hospital, 27 walls now adorn the foundation’s work, with a particular focus on enhancing behavioral health and emergency department space. The project was made possible by local donors’ gifts to the Anouk Foundation.

Anouk Foundation paints its murals with the goal to improve the wellbeing of patients, families, residents, and staff, and to enhance the environment of care. Each project is a close collaboration between the artists and the institution’s caregivers. The project’s theme is determined by everyone involved, and adapted specifically to the institution, the pathology of patients, and age. Every color used and feature included are deliberate and intentional, meant to add depth and a sense of openness to the space. Some 250 projects in 16 countries have been completed by the foundation.

“This project is a great example of the impact of philanthropy and the difference it makes, not only for our patients, but also our hospital as a whole,” said Crista F. Durand, president of Newport Hospital in a statement. “This beautiful work reflects our commitment to caring for the whole patient and the important role the environment of care plays in patients’ healing process. What a tremendous gift from our donor community, with special gratitude to Elizabeth Leatherman. It was a privilege to work with the Anouk Foundation.”

The opportunity to bring the Anouk Foundation to Newport Hospital began prior to the pandemic. Elizabeth Leatherman, a member of the hospital’s Foundation Board, and her husband were traveling in Europe when they connected with Vanessa von Richter, Anouk’s co-founder. While there, Vanessa took the couple to visit facilities where paintings had been completed. Feeling there could be a place at Newport Hospital for similar works, Elizabeth put the hospital’s development team in contact with the foundation and she engaged with donors interested in supporting the project. By fall 2019, the project was approved, and scheduling and renderings were to begin. COVID then paused everything, except for the planning.

“If there was any silver lining to the delay, it was being able to stay connected using Zoom, and that allowed for even deeper discussions on how to execute the project,” said Vanessa. “It was amazing to work with Newport Hospital and we have been thrilled to hear how the murals have already impacted patients and staff. We hope this is just the beginning of working with healthcare centers in the United States.”

Guillaume Ozon, who lives in Serbia, and Emmanuel Martin, from France, were the artists to paint at Newport Hospital. The two arrived in mid-September and spent close to six weeks on the project, leaving Rhode Island on October 27 for their next assignment. During their time in Newport, Guillaume and Emmanuel stayed in the hospital’s Gray House, which is often used to house visiting physicians. And Bike Newport generously donated the use of bikes, helmets, and locks for their use to get around – a familiar and welcome mode of transportation for the Europeans.

Among the murals is a tranquil, blue-based tree scene with contrasting birds in flight completed in one of the behavioral health pods. Another features a grass-lined waterfront anchored by trees and horses and done on a corridor wall of the emergency department, incorporating the wall’s built-in clock as a birdhouse. In a staff breakroom, kiddie-cornered walls that were once white now pop as a farmer’s market stand with sailboats in the distance.

“From the very first moment, we were welcomed warmly by the whole team of the hospital,” said Guillaume in a statement. “This was a wonderful first project in the USA, if sometimes challenging because of the difficult nature or working in a behavioral health unit. But seeing patients and staff react so positively lets us know we did our job. Emmanuel and I won’t forget the kindness of the people of Newport and are so very glad the Anouk Foundation could bring its competence here.”

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