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Art and Medicine

Sujal Manohar, ’20: Collaborative Mural for Pediatric Clinic

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2019

I designed and executed a collaborative mural project at PediPlace, a nonprofit pediatric clinic in Lewisville, Texas. The 5’ x 10’ artwork encourages healthy lifestyles as patients add a leaf to the tree with their initials and pounds lost, marking their achievement and motivating others to stay fit.

About the Artist

Sujal Manohar (’20) is a senior from Dallas, Texas. As a Neuroscience and Visual Arts double major, she believes her diverse interests are not mutually exclusive. A lifelong artist, she is especially interested in using the arts to understand STEM fields and raise awareness about health conditions. Sujal creates murals at Duke Children’s Hospital, gives art gallery tours to Alzheimer’s patients, and plans to create artwork about mental health for her senior thesis in Visual Arts. On campus, she is involved with the Chronicle Photography Department, Baldwin Scholars, and cognitive neuroscience research. She enjoys exploring new restaurants, travelling, and reading.

You can view more of her work and current projects at sujalmanohar.com.

About the Project

The Benenson Award allowed me to explore an important facet of the intersection of the arts and medicine. I have previously created artwork which involves the patient population, but this was the first time my art aimed to combat a health problem. I designed a collaborative mural which encourages healthy lifestyles and weight loss.

This project accomplished many goals for the clinic and for me personally. The 5’ x 10’ wall-to-wall mural beautifies the healthcare environment, engages the patient population, and is sustainable. The art piece continues to grow and evolve even after I leave the clinic. I also gained a lot as an artist, exploring a new art form and recognizing the challenges in collaborative creative projects.

The project was created in several stages. I painted the background of the mural, consisting of a sky, grass, and a tree with bare branches. This was the first time I had painted something so large, and it was definitely a learning experience. Cooperation among PediPlace staff members was crucial for hanging the mural successfully. The entire length of the canvas was longer than the wall height, so some of the artwork had to be cut off. The canvas background had rivets to hang hooks on the side, but there was no hook at the top of the artwork; we originally used strong tape to attach it, but it fell off and we had to use tacks instead. This showed me the importance of being flexible when undertaking a large-scale artistic project.

The mural was very well received at PediPlace—all the nurses, doctors, and staff loved the idea and final artwork. At the end of the summer, a few leaves had already been put up by patients who lost weight. The patients were really excited to contribute to the project, and I am optimistic that this will encourage healthy weight loss and reduce obesity among the pediatric patients. I hope to have this mural up for the next year, and anticipate the tree will be full of leaves in Summer 2020. Dr. McLeod, the Medical Director at PediPlace, invited me to return next summer and write a report on the effectiveness of the mural. She hopes to study whether the tree project resulted in more patients losing weight.

This summer, I discovered how to utilize my artistic skills to not only represent health issues, but to actually combat them. This project has given me the confidence to continue projects exploring the overlap of healthcare and the arts. For my senior thesis in Visual Arts, I aim to create artwork that involves patient contributions to highlight mental health conditions. The Benenson Award provided me important experience with collaborative artworks which I will incorporate into my senior thesis project.

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