Thursday, April 18, 2019
Registered nurse uses discarded medical supplies to create Rainbow Row artwork for staff, patients to enjoy
There’s a buzz among patients and teammates on the fifth-floor hallway of Roper Hospital, and it stems from a piece of artwork depicting Rainbow Row.
Stand a few steps away, and it looks like a detailed painting of the iconic Charleston landscape. Step a little closer, and you see that it’s a three-dimensional piece created with recycled medical supplies, mostly caps from medications – antibiotics, flu shots, anticoagulants, insulin, anti-inflammatories and morphine. It even has strings from patient belonging bags and a stethoscope.
Registered nurse Beth Beaty spent more than one year collecting discarded supplies and creating the artwork, and she recently gifted the canvas and its custom-made frame to the hospital, where she thought it belonged.
“I’ve thought about it a lot, and hanging it here will have the most benefit – the most people enjoy it, both staff and patients,” she said. “There’s a lot of traffic through here, and it livens the place a little bit.”
President and Chief Executive Officer Lorraine Lutton stopped by to see it and described it as “truly remarkable and worthy of an art gallery.” Roper Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stan Wilson called it “absolutely beautiful and incredible.”
The painting is dedicated to Dr. Julia Haile, a beloved infectious disease physician who passed away in February. Beaty didn’t know her well, but she knew her well enough for Dr. Haile to know she was working on the mosaic. Dr. Haile seemed to love the idea of the piece and often would ask her about it, Beaty said.
“She was always very encouraging and excited about it,” she said. “I just thought it was a perfect tribute to her.”
The inspiration to create Rainbow Row came from the colorful medical caps. Beaty didn’t want the caps going to waste, and she felt sure she could use them to create a beautiful piece. Before she was a nurse, Beaty made a living as a graphic designer and photographer, so this project gave her a chance to merge her love of art with her love of nursing.
“When I was doing graphic design and photography as a job, it took the fun out of it for me,” she said. “When I’m able to do it like this on the side for fun, it’s a lot more enjoyable. This was really therapeutic for me.”
She also knew from her art background that research showed staff-produced art could be tied to positive outcomes, from patients walking farther distances to shorter lengths of stay.
She and a friend took photos of Rainbow Row, then Beaty selected a large canvas – but not too large that she couldn’t fit in the back of her Jeep – to sketch the scene. From there, she painted a background then glued the medical caps and supplies over the entire canvas.
“There is something about this that takes you away from this hospital and puts you there (on Rainbow Row) instead,” she said. “It’s relaxing.”
Beaty completed the mosaic in sections and took painstaking attention to the details – flower boxes, a horse-drawn carriage and even a woman leaning toward a man on the sidewalk.
“I put a lot of thought into each little thing,” she said. “You kind of have to look for it.”
She already has an idea about what she’s going to do next (a sailboat and marsh landscape) and where she’d like to see it hanging in the hospital (on the seventh floor where she used to work as a patient care technician).
She enjoyed creating the piece so much that she asked her dad, who owns a custom woodworking business, to build two frames so she would have one ready when she finished her next project.
“I think part of what makes this cool is for nurses, we recognize all of these (caps),” she said. “For other people, it’s just a nice piece of art. Everyone has a different appreciation for it. And I like being able to tell patients that their medicine cap will be used in a painting – it lights up their face and makes such a difference.”