New Community Mural Revealed At NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Sydenham

October 31, 2023

On Tuesday, October 31, 2023, NYC Health + Hospitals today unveiled a new mural as part of the Community Mural Project, run by the health system’s Arts in Medicine department.

Today’s mural, Roses in Harlem at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Sydenham, was developed by artist Stephanie Costello through a series of focus groups with community members, staff and patients and brought to life at a paint party where the community was invited to paint the mural together. Roses in Harlem is one of nine new murals that have been created this year, building on the 26 murals created in the first wave of the Community Mural Project. The first 26 murals are featured in a new book, Healing Walls: New York City Health + Hospitals Community Mural Project 2019-2021A video of the artist and members of the community speaking about the mural is available here. This program is made possible through the generous support of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Roses in Harlem represents the personable energy and resilient character of the historic Sydenham Hospital, and the Harlem neighborhood that has nurtured its spirit. It is a community that prides itself on taking care of one another, while continuing to honor the history and culture of its founders. The imagery of rose bushes and foliage were inspired by existing plants in the clinic space, and the caretakers who attend to watering–a metaphor for the ways health workers nurture their patients. They also call to mind the various songs and poems that reference “a rose in Harlem,” which is a rose that blooms from the concrete.

One wall is punctuated with a brownstone, which represents the idea of “home”; its cornerstone marked in tribute to Sydenham, with the words: “A Coalition to Save Sydenham.” The composition of this wall pays homage to the stylings of Harlem icon Dapper Dan, who combines disparate imagery to create beautiful fashions. Here, various images come together collage-style to represent the diversity and culture of Harlem. The various star, flower, and palm leaf patterns represent cross-cultural notions of vitality, creation, inspiration, and good health. The string of lights and Harlequin diamond patterns are a nod to Harlem’s entertainment establishments, and the piano represents Duke Ellington and the legacy of jazz. Importantly, the Eye of Horus is positioned close to home, as a symbol of protection for the neighborhood and its people. Purple, the dominant color in the artwork, symbolizes strength, transformation, creativity, and tranquility. The adjacent wall, which features a cityscape at night, is inspired by Harlem painter Faith Ringgold, and her book Tar Beach, which illustrates uptown rooftop scenes and speaks to the hopes, dreams, and imagination of city dwellers.


“Sydenham has important and historic roots in its Harlem neighborhood,” said Rick Luftglass, Executive Director of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “We have heard from staff and neighbors about the vital health services provided here every day of the year, but especially during the COVID pandemic and in health crises of the past. Roses in Harlem celebrates this history and the strength, compassion, and resilience of the healthcare workers and community members they serve. It will bring joy and solace to all who enter the facility and we are proud to have supported its creation.”

“Our artist Steph Costello brought a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and collaboration with the Harlem community to this project,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President of Arts in Medicine Larissa Trinder. “The vibrant colors and imagery will enhance the waiting area at Sydenham and provide patients and staff with an immersive experience that will bring joy and light to all who engage with it.”

“I am proud to acknowledge the unveiling of a new Mural at Sydenham titled Rose in Harlem by artist Stephanie Costello,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health CEO Michelle Lewis. “The new work inspires hope, tranquility, and a sense of belonging to our patients and our community. On behalf of Gotham Health, we express deep appreciation to the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund for their generous support, which has made this project a reality.”


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“It was an honor to work with staff and community members of Sydenham,” said muralist Stephanie Costello. “They are a warm group with an impressive legacy, and it was truly a privilege to create artwork for this space.”

Stephanie Costello (@stephcostelloart) is a Brooklyn-based artist. Her art is inspired by the energy and architecture of cities, revealing ways in which the urban environment shapes social life, imagination, and memory. In both her intricate works on paper and in large-scale public installations, she attempts to choreograph the dynamic movement and describe the complicated constructions that shape city life.

The Community Mural Project is believed to be the country’s largest public hospital mural program since the 1930s, when the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) commissioned murals in public buildings, including virtually every hospital in New York City’s public healthcare system. The WPA murals were the start of NYC Health + Hospitals art collection, which now is the city’s largest public art collection and includes more than 7,000 pieces of art of multiple disciplines. The art collection is used to enhance the healthcare environment, inspire creativity, promote wellness, increase access to the arts, and engage staff.

The Community Mural Project creates opportunities for hospital staff to collaborate with each other and with neighbors, relieve stress, and enhance the physical environment of the facilities. Healthcare worker burnout is a national health crisis, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has created mental health challenges across New York City, especially in low-income, immigrant and historically excluded communities, which are significant patient populations for NYC Health + Hospitals.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health

NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health is a Federally Qualified Healthcare Provider formed in 2012 to enable individuals and families to address their healthcare needs in their own neighborhoods. Serving more than 100,000 New Yorkers annually in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens, Gotham Health consists of 38 healthcare sites in all five boroughs of New York City. Gotham Health provides easy-to-access, high-quality, affordable healthcare services with a focus on primary care. It is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles and building healthy communities, with a focus upon providing patients and families convenient access to high-quality preventive care, such as annual check-ups and immunizations. Healthcare teams are trained to help patients manage ongoing conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

NYC Health + Hospitals’ Arts in Medicine Department
The Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals seeks to foster emotional well-being and promote healing and wellness for all patients and their families, employees, and the greater community by utilizing the arts, including literary, visual, and performing arts throughout the health care system. In addition to managing the system’s significant visual arts collection, the Arts in Medicine department encourages evidence-based practices and provides technical assistance to all of the system’s healthcare facilities and clinics. This is accomplished by combining artistic innovation and education into a comprehensive health care continuum that supports the healing benefits of the arts. For more information, visit https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/artsinmedicine/.

NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org 

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is a New York City-based foundation that strives to improve access and opportunity for all New Yorkers and foster healthy and vibrant communities. Founded in 2007 by philanthropist Laurie M. Tisch, the Illumination Fund plays an active role in supporting innovative approaches across a range of issues—increasing access to healthy food, building healthy communities, supporting economic opportunity and ensuring that arts and arts education are accessible to all. In 2018, the Illumination Fund launched Arts in Health, a $10-million-dollar, multi-year initiative to support organizations working on health issues that impact New York communities and that emphasize the arts as a tool for healing and building understanding. The areas of focus include addressing mental health stigma, trauma, and aging-related diseases. For more information, visit www.lmtif.org 

Photo credit: 1-2) Muralist Stephanie Costello, NYC Health + Hospitals Arts in Medicine Assistant Vice President Larissa Trinder, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Executive Director Rick Luftglass, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health Chief Operating Officer Lara Singh, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health Chief Nursing Officer Lawanda Curry, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Morris Gagliardi, and others celebrate the new mural at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Sydenham. (Credit: NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health).

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