Serious mental illness is often a family matter discussed behind closed doors. Yet with nearly half of all U.S. adults diagnosed with a lifelong mental disorder, this repressed issue affects all of us in some way. So when artist Anna Schuleit was asked to create an installation for the soon-to-be-demolished Massachusetts Mental Health Center, she embraced the task of addressing such a difficult subject. After three months of planning, Schuleit filled nearly every square foot of the health center with 28,000 potted flowers in an installation called Bloom. “I was hoping to create a work that would bring aspects of play into the seriousness of the institution, an element of the absurd,” said Schuleit in an interview with Colossal.
During the four-day installation, visitors quietly roamed the halls and peeked around corners, overwhelmed and surprised by the sight of lavender, tulips and daisies. During its run, Bloom also attracted former patients of the health center. For those who knew the halls all too well, Schuleit’s installation was cathartic. “My mother told me, 36 years ago, ‘Hang on. They’ll find a cure,’” wrote one former patient in the guestbook for Bloom. “I was suffering alone until I came to MMHC. And today… oh so grateful…beyond any words, so grateful. Lives and sufferings have been redeemed here… Today, we flourish.” After the installation came to an end, Schuleit delivered the flowers to shelters and psychiatric hospitals throughout New England where they continued to blossom. While photographs may be all that remains of Bloom, they reveal a quietly optimistic meditation on mental health, bringing color, life and hope to those who suffer.
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.