Northwell Health LIJ Forest Hills, in Forest Hills, Queens, saw its first COVID-19 patient on March 11, 2020, and would go on to see more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients in the facility over the next year.
Now, two FIT Illustration MFA students—Jensine Eckwall, from Newtown, CT, now living in Ridgewood, Queens, and set to graduate this coming summer, and Nikki Scioscia, from Lexington, SC, now living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and in her third year—have designed and installed two murals in a site-specific outdoor staff rest area at the hospital that will serve as a memorial garden honoring those lost to the pandemic.
The design of the murals, which were formally unveiled on December 14, is heavily influenced by American Folk Art, Eckwall explained. In one of the images, the sun is rising because the community hospital used to play The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” when someone was released from the COVID ward. In the other image is a tree displaying the message “New York Will Heal Because of You.” The tree’s roots signify the roots at the hospital, which are closely connected to the borough of Queens.
Merav Deguzman, director of Patient and Customer Experience Education at LIJ, has a daughter who went to FIT, and has seen ChalkFIT—the college’s annual outdoor mural project. She thought of FIT students to paint the hospital’s mural in memory of those lost to COVID, and approached Brendan Leach, chair of FIT’s MFA in Illustration, about it.