A bit of “Everyday Joy & Kindness” honors Mollie Tibbetts outside psychiatry clinics

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

A bolt of bright colors now greets passersby near Behavior Health and Adult Psychiatry on the first floor of University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

The mural, entitled “Everyday Joy & Kindness,” is part of a larger project orchestrated by Tilly Woodward, Curator of Academic and Community Outreach at Grinnell College Museum of Art.

A sign hanging next to the mural explains it is meant to “celebrate and play forward the idea of joy, kindness and beauty in the world, experienced and expressed by teens in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) who contributed to its creation.”

Artist Tilly Woodward watches on January 31, 2020, as workers from Project Art prepare to hang the mural on the first floor of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

“I really believe that art is a wonderful way to help us process what’s most difficult in life and what is most joyful in life as well,” Woodward says. “And I feel like this project really balances those two needs.” 

The mural project also celebrates the life and memory of Mollie Tibbetts, who died in 2018. Tibbetts was studying at the University of Iowa with the goal of being a child psychologist. After her death, her family set up the Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Fund for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, which along with the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and Grinnell College Museum of Art, supported the mural project.

Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD, UI associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Division at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, says the mural project has helped patients develop “their skills and creativity to help them with the problems of psychiatric illness, which basically undermine your feeling of self-worth, your ability to find ways to cope.”

Four murals like the one outside the Adult Psychiatry Clinic were installed last summer in a room at the UI Behavioral Health Clinic, where those participating in dialectical behavioral therapy meet. Another mural is at Grinnell Middle School, for students who had Tibbetts as a camp counselor the summer before her death, and who also worked on the mural project.

Sayuri Hemann and Bruce Scherting of Project Art install the mural on January 30, 2020, near the UI Behavioral Health and Adult Psychiatry Clinics.

After those murals were completed, Woodward was asked to come back and work with a different group of teens taking part in DBT as well as, during one session, with their parents. Child psychologists and UI assistant professors of psychiatry Erin Olufs, Phd, and Dr. Jamie Elizalde, Phd NCSP, facilitated youth from the DBT program working on the project.

“I feel like that session was especially gratifying for me,” Woodward says, “To see people concentrating and working together … at that point it’s not about illness or treatment, but about partnership. And it’s interesting when you are focused and you’re working on an artwork together with someone, sometimes there’s an opportunity for conversation or a sense of relationship that might not be as available at other times, perhaps.”

Woodward says the mural hanging up outside Adult Psychiatry is a little bit different because “it’s in a more public space.”

“We did brainstorm about the ideas, what kind of things represent beauty and joy or what kind of things might represent kindness,” Woodward says. “Thinking through why people are here at the hospital: they’re here for treatment, to visit people they love, they’re here for work… what might be especially uplifting to people in this space.”

Stevens says she hopes the Mollie Tibbetts Fund for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry will continue to grow, so it can “support more people within our institutions who are devoted to building innovative programs for kids with mental health problems.”

To donate to the Mollie Tibbetts Fund, go to givetoiowa.org/mollie.

Related: ‘Everyday Joy’ Artwork Pays Tribute to Mollie Tibbetts One Year Later (From WHO-TV)

Related: ‘Everyday Joy’ murals at Children’s Hospital honor Mollie Tibbetts (Daily Iowan)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020