Genius Award Given to Artist

MacArthur winner finds inspiration in deserted pychiatric wards, hopstials

Though artists are often famous for walking the fine line between genius and insanity, the latest MacArthur Award winner Anna Schuleit has taken this phrase to its literal conclusion—transforming deserted psychiatric wards into works of art.

A graduate of RISD and Dartmouth and currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, the German-born Anna Schuleit decided to create art from state mental hospitals because of her own fascination with the history of psychiatry.

“What happens to people in their society when other people tell them they’re not sane anymore?” asked Schuleit. “What does sanity mean any more? I’m drawn to that because it’s the very core of what makes us who we are.”

Schuleit said she gets her inspiration for art installations from speaking with the people who have worked at a site for years.

“The stories of the people that work in these places is the key to understanding these places,” Schuleit said. “To find out from the inside gives me the ability to do projects closer to the site than if I had come in with an idea without talking to them.”

Schuleit’s most recent installations includes a flower-filled greenhouse.

“When you have cancer or give birth, people bring flowers. People in psychiatric wards never got any flowers,” Schuleit said. “In the Bloom project, I added up all the flowers that had never been given...for 91 years and I installed 28,000 flowers.”

—Staff writer Margot E. Edelman can be reached at medelman@fas.harvard.