A mental space filled with flowers

An entire psychiatric hospital has been filled with flowers before demolition as part of a beautiful art installation to remember a place “rich with a history of both hope and sadness.”

Art website Colossal has amazing pictures of the sublime artwork.

In 2003 a building housing the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) was slated for demolition to make way for updated facilities. The closure was a time for reflection and remembrance as the MMHC had been in operation for over 9 decades and had touched countless thousands of patients and employees alike, and the pending demolition presented a unique problem. How does one memorialize a building impossibly rich with a history of both hope and sadness, and do it in a way that reflects not only the past but also the future? And could this memorial be open to the public, not as a speech, or series of informational plaques, but as an experience worthy of they building’s unique story?

To answer that question artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to do the impossible. After an initial tour of the facility she was struck not with what she saw but with what she didn’t see: the presence of life and color. While historically a place of healing, the drab interior, worn hallways, and dull paint needed a respectful infusion of hope. With a limited budget and only three months of planning Schuleit and an enormous team of volunteers executed a massive public art installation called Bloom. The concept was simple but absolutely immense in scale. Nearly 28,000 potted flowers would fill almost every square foot of the MMHC including corridors, stairwells, offices and even a swimming pool, all of it brought to life with a sea of blooms.

A beautiful and touching piece.
 

Link to photos from Colossal (via @sarcastic_f)
Link to artist’s pages on the project.

6 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t how it struck me at all. The memorializing of patients as potted plants strikes a horrific metaphor of permanent stigma. Blooming or not.

    The project website was filled with romanticizing memories of staff. Quotes and pictures of inmates are nowhere to be found.

    The aroma of flowery scent will never cover up the stench of what was done to those unfortunate victims.

  2. James Galan
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful concept! This project beautifies the hospital, dignifies the staff and patients, and is a symbol of hope.

  3. Clare
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    All the flowers in the world can not dignify the horrendous acts and treatment of our fellow humankind. I am an artist and would not dream to represent this place with the scent of flowers. Does anyone know the horrific malfeance and neglect that occurred there – the undignifiend treatment of the least served among us, can not be turned into an art istanllation, no matter the, I am sure good wishes of the artist. I am of course sure, there was some benevolence on the part of the staff, but this was a disgraceful stain on the existence of places such as this. If it were up to me, I would think I just would rather not. Even in memorium, you can not take away the tragedies done in the name of stashing away the least among us. I can not speak for this artist and I am sure she had her heart in the right place. But for heaven’s sake, a little respect is due to those who were treated less than human and would probably have had better treatment in a kennel. The names of those left there to rot or neglect should be etched on marble and the utter disgust of those that allowed such utter disregard for their fellow brethren should be handed flowers, so they may learn there is beauty in all of heaven’s blessings. All creatures great and small!

    Sorry to find this so distasteful. But, this kind of irreverance makes me even more nuts!

    Mind Hack, no offence intended to you or your superb blog. If I may speak as an artist, this would so be the last thing I would do in regard to a place of horror for so many. Hipocracy should not be tolerated or the re-writing of history. Best to you and your continued good work in mentioning things of this nature,

    • James Galan
      Posted March 22, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      It may have been a dark place, but it can go to history for a fleeting moment as a place of beauty. In no way is this disrespectful to the residents. The flowers represent a tribute to the residents and to dedicated members of the staff. If the institution lacked outward beauty while it was in operation, the beauty was always there but hidden, not manifestated.

      • Annonymous
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 1:04 am | Permalink

        Exactly! “the beauty was always there but hidden, not manifested”. We humans are and have allowed so much disgrace. Is it forgivable, have we learned anything? I may be nuts in every sense of the word, but grow weary of all of us not learning and growing from past mistakes. As an American, I am more fortunate and do not need to worry about the flies circling my face. A fitting memorial is one thing, but the stench of weeping flowers would never be my choice. Again, I say etch their names in marble in memorium, so that does not ever happen again and wish most hope and grace for those that actually took care of those afflicted.

  4. James Galan
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    I like your comment!


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