The lobby of the St. Luke's Children's Hospital in downtown Boise recently became much more colorful. Now hanging on the wall is a large, 12-panel mural filled with images of hot air balloons, fireworks, flowers, children playing, fluffy clouds, a rainbow and more.
It is unique in a couple of ways: The mural is made up of about 90,000 pieces of glass an was created and donated by local artist Richard Herdegen, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2010.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes tremors and stiffness. For Herdegen, creating the mural presented some challenges.
"Fine motor control is really hard. My tremors are exaggerated when I get nervous, and some of the things I do make me nervous," Herdegen said, referring to using a torch to melt glass. "I haven't gotten burnt yet, and I really don't want to."
Herdegen found inspiration for much of the mural in the work of local illustrator Bruce Day (brucedayink.com), with many elements of the mural taken directly from Day's illustrations. He made 200,000 glass beads and spent a year and a half working on the mural, putting in around 80 hours per week.
"Most of my characters on the mural were made of fused glass," he said, running his fingers through a bowl of light pink glass beads. Fusing glass requires stacking the pieces, then melting them in a kiln to create different colors and shapes.
Gregory Janos, the soon-to-be retired executive medical director of St. Luke's Children's Hospital, said Herdegen's mural has had a big impact on the hospital's atmosphere. Janos is a longtime advocate for integrative healing, which involves a holistic approach to healing the mind, body and spirit.
"[The mural] is a centerpiece," Janos said. "When people come into a foreign medical place, they're able to see it there and it makes them feel comfortable already. ... It's inviting, gives them something to do and it's welcoming.
"Drawing is the kind of communication children use," he added. "Long before they're printing their names, they're drawing pictures. ... Having something they're familiar with is critical."