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Superhero Art Mural Rises At Jackson Memorial Hospital To Honor Healthcare Workers

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Rising more than 100 feet into the air on the sides of a parking garage at Jackson Memorial Hospital is a mural honoring healthcare workers.

The creation is being crafted by Miami artist Claudia La Bianca.

"As an artist, I had to donate this," she said.

The mural pays tribute to nurses, doctors, social workers, janitors, and security guards, all of whom have remained on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"These people are going to work, saving lives, fighting diseases and we have never really paid attention to them or say thanks enough," La Bianca said.

The images are larger than life and that's by design.

La Bianca is originally from Italy. Earlier this year she grew concerned about the situation in her home country as COVID-19 ravaged the nation.

Her family in Italy was quarantined and that gave her an inkling of what the United States was in for. Later, when she was stuck at home in South Florida during the shutdown, she started drawing. It inspired her.

"I love superheroes and I say why don't I make the character, the superheroes, nurses," La Bianca said.

The result was a superhero-themed drawing of nurses. She said it gots lots of attention on social media and she partnered with a local restaurant and had prints of the drawing sent with food orders.

Eventually, it turned into a sort of super-sized, superhero comic book cover on a large wall at JMH, complete with messages of bravery, strength, and courage. Those attributes are depicted in the clothing, facial expressions, and items used by the characters in the artwork.

Speaking of courage, it took some for La Bianca to climb onto a scaffold and ascend the side of a building.

"It was pretty challenging," she said. "I got a little scared. But then, I thought if these nurses are risking their life and doing all of this for us, I'm sure I can do this."

And the message of empowerment is resonating with the real-life heroes.

"It really emphasizes the work of healthcare heroes," said June Ellis, Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Critical Care in the Emergency Dept at Jackson Memorial Hospital. "I mean, look at this mural. It's larger than life. We're larger than life right now."

La Bianca started the mural on May 1 and she's worked 8 to 10 hours each day since. She hopes to complete the project next week. Throughout, she's continued to draw inspiration directly from the heroes she's drawing.

"I hear the nurses from downstairs cheering and screaming, 'Thank you, thank you,'" she said. "And I'm thinking why are you telling me, 'Thank you?' 'Thank you!' That's been the biggest gratification."

It's an expensive project. Fortunately, a former NFL player, Luke Petitgout, stepped in to fund it. La Bianca credits him with suggesting she broaden the image to include the janitor, security guard, etc.

"He loved the idea," she said. "We brainstormed. He said why not bring everybody in this mural who works in the hospital?"

La Bianca plans to do similar murals at 5 other hospitals in South Florida. She is also looking for a corporate sponsor to help take this work across Florida and, possibly, the nation. She understands that thanking healthcare heroes is important right now and she hopes that once the pandemic passes, this art will remain as a symbol of their daily sacrifice.

"I want to make them feel that this is the pandemic now but this should be recognized forever," she said.

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