Winter Haven Hospital Mural Shows Connection Between Art, Health

June 12, 2024


Most people might have looked at the long, tall and blank wall bordering the outdoor recreation area at Winter Haven Hospital and seen just that.  

But some members of the Winter Haven Hospital Center for Psychiatry team saw an opportunity for beauty and healing for behavioral health patients. 

Their vision was realized through a partnership with Polk State College art students, where they  designed a mural to promote comfort and calm for patients who are living with mental health challenges. The mural was unveiled and celebrated on May 1. 

The Center for Psychiatry (CFP) team had been looking for ways to beautify the area for some time when it petitioned hospital administration for a mural for the outdoor area. Foxye Jackson, the department’s assistant nurse manager, worked with the rest of the CFP team to brainstorm design concepts. 

In the meantime, Winter Haven Hospital President Tom Garthwaite reached out to Polk State College President and WHH Board Member Angela Garcia Falconetti to see if students might be willing to help. 

Falconetti, in turn, tapped Holly Scoggins, an art professor at Polk State College who teaches a mural class.  

When her students take on a project, Scoggins asks each of them to design a concept based on the client’s need. The seven students in the class each drew two mural sketches based on the BayCare team’s ideas, and the Center for Psychiatry team chose one concept for the students to bring to life. 

For the next several weeks, Scoggins and her students created their vision – a mountainscape with flowers and grass in the foreground – on the 81-foot by 31-foot-wall outside the hospital.  

Abigail Estamponi designed the chosen mural concept.  

“I wanted to give the sense of tranquility and triumph and I wanted it to be inviting,” Estamponi explained. “The red ribbon was used as a labyrinth but because it’s a wall, the ribbon is meant to provide the same sensation of walking along a passageway. People are encouraged to trace the line with their finger and the moment can be used for self-reflection, clarity and an opportunity to analyze emotion. I believe that art and health go hand-in-hand.” 

Jackson, who is now a nurse manager on Winter Haven Hospital’s medical/surgical/telemedicine unit, agreed.  

“We use art in mental health therapy every day,” she said. “Art therapy is a way to escape and use a different part of their minds. It’s an opportunity to use their creativity in a positive way.” 

A large group of diverse individuals smiling and posing for a photo in front of a vibrant mural.
Winter Haven Hospital leadership and team members celebrated with student artists, board members and leadership at Polk State College during the unveiling of a mural in the hospital’s Center for Psychiatry.
The mural is now one of the borders of the activity area, where behavioral health patients get fresh air during the day. For that reason, it is not open to the public. 

“One of the largest pieces of mural art in this town is reserved for people who otherwise might not have that experience,” Scoggins noted. “It’s for people who need it for mental health therapy as an outlet. I’ve had lots of people ask me when they can come and see it. I tell them they can’t because it’s just for these patients and I think that’s wonderful.” 

Sandra Curran, a nurse manager at the Center for Psychiatry, is awed by the mural and the impact it will have on patients – and BayCare team members.  

“When patients look at this beautiful mural, they’ll be able to see all the beauty that’s in the world and get out of that dark spot in their minds,” Curran said. “This is good for our staff as well – they can also come out here and reflect, because they don’t have an easy job. We’re a community and addressing mental health is a community effort. We have to address it together, and this project really shows that.” 

Founded in 1926, Winter Haven Hospital is a 447-bed hospital that specializes in the treatment of heart disease, cancer, stroke and behavioral health. The hospital also provides emergency care; outpatient diabetes education; endoscopy services; neurological, orthopedic and in-patient rehabilitation; outpatient surgery; and imaging services. It is located at 200 Ave. F N.E. in Winter Haven, Florida. 

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