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Adding some color

MCHS art students decorate stairwell at Morris Hospital

Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012 5:00 a.m. CDT
(Rebecca Trusheim photo for the Morris Daily Herald)
Morris Community High School students, with their teacher, stand in front of some of their artwork which is now featured in a stairwell at Morris Hospital as part of the ‘Stairwell to Better Health’ project. Pictured are art teacher Christine Hankins, Emily Bestow, Margaret Ascolani, Devon Martin, Chris Gualandi, Nancy Soto, Sandra Segura, Selene Gabaldon and Erinne Smith (not pictured is Alexx Herrera).

Taking the stairs at Morris Hospital was like walking through a “white tunnel.” The walls were white and not very exciting to look at.

But now, thanks to 12 students and a teacher from Morris Community High School, one stairwell is filled with colorful scenes from the bluffs, the prairie and the wet lands.

“A walk through nature is always a welcome treat,” said Christine Hankins, art club sponsor at Morris High School.

She explained that the three levels in the stairwell that lead from the first floor to the cafeteria on the lower level represent different nature scenes from the local area.

The highest level the students painted depicts scenes from the bluffs near Starved Rock.

“At that level you might have viewed a bear at one time, but even today you can see coyote and bald eagles,” Hankins said.

As employees of Morris Hospital descend to the next level, they will be greeted by white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels and birds, common animals seen today. Just down the wall is a bison, an animal that may have been around in the past.

The lowest level in the stairwell shows a wetland, like Goose Lake.

“Here you will see blue heron, fish, Canadian Geese, turtles, frogs and, with a little luck, you might find a Tully Monster,” Hankins said.

Hankins and the students from Morris High School’s Art Club worked after school for about two months in the stairs at the hospital. They went there to paint several days a week for between two and three hours each time.

“It’s really amazing. They did a great job,” said Leigh Anne Hall, wellness manager at Morris Hospital. Hall initiated the project as a way to get the hospital’s employees moving.

“Our main goal is to promote wellness in the building with our employees and then also to be the example in the community,” she said.

Hall’s hope, in creating something more exciting and colorful to look at in the stairwell, is the employees with be more apt to take the stairs over the elevator.

She said taking the stairs is more active for the employees, and it also frees up the elevators for easier patient transportation, as well.

“A lot of studies show that if you keep your employees healthy there’s less absenteeism, so it’s really something that’s good for the whole organization,” Hall said.

When Hall asked Hankins if the art club would be interested in taking on the project, Hall didn’t have any ideas for the artwork. So she left it up to Hankins.

“I’m not very artsy. I can’t even draw a straight line,” Hall said.

She said she contacted Hankins because the art club had done projects at Morris Hospital in the past.

“The pediatric emergency room has Nemo characters that members of the Art Club painted about three year ago,” Hankins said.

While the painting was in progress, traffic flow through the stairs seemed to increase because employees were interested to see what had been added on over night. Hall hopes the employees continue to use the stairs now that the project is over, however.

She plans on posting signs at the elevators to invite people to use the stairs instead.

“I had students of all levels and abilities working and I think that they did a great job,” Hankins said. “I am very proud of the finished project.”

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