Alive in nature:  Muralist creates special murals for inpatient units

The pale walls of the four inpatient units at Hyland Behavioral Health are transforming this summer to ocean scenes, lush and vibrant parks, space vistas and abstract designs.

St. Louis-based muralist Dianne Renee has been busy creating murals in four different units since early summer. The project seeks to banish the institutional look of the hospital and to capture the calming and healing effects of art in nature.

“Patients and staff love them, especially the interactive chalkboard mural that allows patients to color in the lines,” noted the Executive Director of Behavioral Health. “Dianne is donating most of this work because she is an advocate for behavioral health; typically this is a very expensive project. Home Depot and Lowe’s have donated some of the painting supplies.”

Dianne said her main inspiration comes from “God and how He speaks to me through Nature.” She hopes to brighten, enlighten and heal through her work, and is tailoring the artwork for each unit to the patients being treated. She is framing the murals in organic, curve-linear shapes, which have been found to be more calming than angular shapes and signify the ability to “go with the flow.”

“Most importantly, I chose to connect the murals to represent an overall theme: we are all connected and have purpose,” Dianne said. “Our actions, words and even our thoughts resonate like strings plucked on a guitar.  Our behavior affects our world, even if we as individuals feel insignificant and unimportant. For many, the comprehension of their important connection to the world serves as therapy, helping them make more enlightened choices.”

(The artist’s personal note here…  When painting in the adolescent unit of the hospital, I was asked several times why I chose to contain the artwork in curve-linear frames instead of painting the entire wall surface, like typical murals.  My answer to that is this:  Although the murals are to provide visual respite from the depressing institutional look, I have a greater message to convey to the viewers; especially those within the adolescent age. While the expression of self, beauty, creativity, and individuality should be encouraged, healthy boundaries should be also be taught.  I personally believe that behavioral and mental dis-ease is cultivated when children are not taught how to set healthy personal boundaries. My decision to frame the artwork in organic, flowing and connected shapes, instead of boxes, represents my belief that these important boundaries do not necessarily have to be rigid, harsh, right-angled templates that box people in. Boundaries can be dynamic and malleable, while maintaining intellectual, ethical and moral fortitude.)