Mental institution filled with 28,000 flowers before it was demolished


Artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to produce an installation in the massive, ancient Massachusetts Mental Health Center before it was demolished. She filled it with 28,000 flowers. Here, Colossal talks with Schuleit about "BLOOM," the resulting installation.

The reactions to Bloom ranged from expressions of delight to raw and renewed sorrow. It was a strange duality: at its core this project was intended to allow people free access to a building that had always been locked and mysterious, while opening its doors also (and especially) to those who had been there for years. The building meant many things to many people, as a workplace, a refuge, a place of confinement. The installation of live flowers and audio (a collage of the sounds of the building before it closed being played over the old PA system) elicited as many reactions as there are stories. I met many hundreds of people who had worked and been at MMHC for years and decades. It was for them that I created this work. We had a guest book in the lobby which filled up with many entries, here are some:

“I walked through Bloom with a close friend of mine who has spent a great deal of time inside similar hospitals. He was close to tears and repeated said he felt the desire to jump into the flowers, sum bold for the freedom and the celebration of his own growth and healing. We recognized that Bloom brought beauty and wonder to what has always been an inherently taboo subject matter.”

“‘Never worry alone’ was a Dr. Tom Gutheil classic line, but because of the lack of social support, too many patients who came here had to worry alone. Anna saw these corridors as places to be filled with growth. For all the patients who never received flowers, these flowers are for you.”

“My therapist’s office was in the basement and the floor is covered in grass. Grass does not bloom but it cushions and it is in the right place. It is the foundation, it softens everything. Conceptually it is brilliant.”

“My mother told me, 36 years ago, “Hang on. They’ll find a cure.” 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, and today we celebrate and honor, all of us, in this place, for better or for worse. Today, we flourish. The list of what we cannot do grows shorter and shorter. We become comfortable in a world of three dimensions; we gladly surrender the fourth, fifth, and sixth.”

Bloom: 28,000 Potted Flowers Installed at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (via Making Light)