Hospital against the wall, local couple dives in to save the ship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Lee Grant looks on as his wife, Lisa Grant, adds her signature to the mural painted by the couple on River Region’s pediatric clinic wall. The couple said it was the largest project they have done so far. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/12/02]Along the back wall of River Region’s new pediatric clinic, a futuristic submarine cuts through blue and purple waters. But the 45-foot ship almost didn’t sail.

“It was just an oversight one of the things that slipped through the cracks when you’re opening a $123 million hospital,” said Dr. Geri Weiland, a pediatrician with River Region Medical Center.

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But as the new medical complex neared completion last month, she didn’t let that happen.

Instead, Weiland enlisted the help of two local artists who completed the painting in two weeks just in time for the hospital’s open house.

“When this was conceived and that was a couple of years ago we saw the color scheme and sketches of what this would look like,” Weiland said of the new facility’s pediatrics clinic, tucked behind the gift shop on the first floor of the new medical complex.

Inside, ship-like portholes connect a bank of receptionist desks with USS Vicksburg painted underneath them.

Across from them, a 69-foot wall stretches along the back of the waiting area the spot planned for the giant mural.

But a mixup between the hospital and the construction company left each thinking the other would supply the painting.

With so many other things going on with the hospital opening, Weiland said, they almost decided just to put pictures on the wall.

“It could have easily gotten lost in the shuffle,” said Lisa Grant, who along with her husband, Lee, took on the project.

“Geri asked us to come by and give her some advice,” Lee Grant said. “We didn’t know that we had to do it,” he said, laughing.

But within a week, the pair presented three sketches to the hospital. The pediatric staff, along with the hospital administration, picked the futuristic sub that now adorns the wall.

“It’s kinda like a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ kinda thing,” Lee Grant said.

“We never thought this would be their favorite,” Lisa Grant said.

With 24-hour access to the area, the couple began painting Feb. 1 and finished a week later. “This is while we held full-time jobs,” said Lisa Grant, who teaches art at St. Aloysius High School. Her husband creates computer illustrations for the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers. The two met working on their degrees in fine arts from Mississippi College, and their first child now 18 was one of Weiland’s first patients.

The mural was unveiled at River Region’s open house.

“Our philosophy and the pediatric process is that you think of pediatrics as babies but you don’t have to cater to 2- and 3- and 4-year-olds,” Weiland said. “We wanted something for the older kids.”

They also didn’t want something that would encourage children to add their own markings to the wall.

“If you make it too juvenile, the kids will think they can go draw on it,” Lisa Grant said.

Instead, they hoped to capture children’s imaginations to help make going to the doctor a little more fun.

“That’s the whole point it really makes a special interest,” Lisa Grant said.

“I have kids stop me in the hall and say Ms. Grant, I saw the mural. I love it. It’s cool.'”