Artists color San Francisco Presidio field hospital with powerful images of healing during COVID-19 pandemic

ByDan Ashley & Tim Didion KGO logo
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Artists color SF Presidio hospital during COVID-19 crisis
While thousands of doctors, nurses and first responders have battled the COVID-19 pandemic, one San Francisco field hospital in the Presidio is benefiting from the creativity of Bay Area artists with powerful images of healing for the patients inside.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- While thousands of doctors, nurses and first responders have jumped in to battle the COVID-19 crisis, one facility is benefiting from the creativity of another group. They're more likely to be holding a sketch pad than a stethoscope. But these Bay Area artists are hoping their work will have healing power nonetheless.

"You know as artists we can do a lot of things with our work," says artist Erin Gallagher.

Their canvas, in broad strokes, is an emergency field hospital set up in San Francisco's Presidio, to handle a potential overflow of patients from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The single-story structure was converted to handle 90-plus non-COVID-19 patients should hospitals become overwhelmed.

During the process, Dr. Andrea Tenner, M.D., from the San Francisco Department of Public Health had the idea of adding color and perhaps healing inspiration from art.

"Calming pictures or pictures of paintings, images of a better time," says Dr. Tenner.

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After meeting with Dr. Tenner, organizer Painter Laura Pacchini began working with fellow artists to transform the space. She says the priority was creating scenes that would capture a patient's imagination. She drew from memories of a visit to Tahiti.

"The ocean, the warmth, just the healing sea," says Pacchini.

Other inspirations for the space were as varied as the artists themselves.

"The first thing I put on the wall were some monarch butterflies. I feel like butterflies are a symbol of hope," says Gallagher.

Another contributing artist, Jane Manning Veit said, "The pieces I put up are about growth and movement. And it's about our connection between healing with water and growth and movement."

So far the city's luck has held, and health officials haven't had to use the overflow space. But should the crisis require it, there is now added space in a struggling city, for patients to heal, both physically and spiritually.

The effort was also spearheaded by San Francisco supervisor Catherine Stafani.

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