ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ruth Horn is an artist. She carves wood and does stained glass. For three days, she’s done little more than stare at a TV screen and wait for a nurse to check on her from her hospital bed.

“When you’re feeling bad, you’ve got to go,” she said. “Especially now with the coronavirus. It’s kind of scary.”

At least she has a fellow artist to keep her company. Just through her window, Horn watched Michael Vahl put the finishing touches on his two-week project. He grabbed a can of spray paint and waved his arm, sporadically leaving a streak of white or blue paint on the fifth-floor wall of St. Anthony’s Hospital in downtown St. Petersburg.

“It must suck sitting in there. This gives them a little motivation to get better and get back out there,” the artist from Tampa said. “I hope I made her stay more enjoyable.”

Vahl was asked by the hospital to beautify an exterior hospital wall as a way to cheer up patients during their stay in doctor’s care. Inside the building, hospital workers feverishly hurried through halls with protective masks over their noses and mouths. With the nation, and world, in a tizzy over coronavirus updates, hospitals have been busy for weeks.

From her bed, Horn breathed easy.

“I never expected to see it,” she said. “What a nice idea.”

Horn lives just a short drive away from St. Anthony’s at Sunset Beach. Vahl’s mural reminded her of home. It’s exactly where she’d rather be.

“Looking out at that is like looking out the beach at the house,” she admitted.

An artist herself, Horn appreciated Vahl’s effort to make the wall outside her room look a little more uplifting in a time when many people across the world are scared over a global virus pandemic.

“The whole coronavirus, it’s pretty crazy,” said Vahl, who has also spray-painted encouraging messages in the hospital’s stairwells in the Jackson tower.

He’s been commissioned to work on pieces for professional athletes but is relatively new to the mural scene. He moved to Florida five years ago and was inspired by some other St. Pete muralists’ work. Vahl has since completed more than a dozen murals around Tampa Bay.

“I tried it and I haven’t stopped,” he said.

His beach scene, full of crashing waves and vibrant blues and greens, masks a weathered, formerly beige wall which had been covered in stains.

Now, it’s a window to a world outside where there is less need for medicines and needles.

“With the talent he’s got, I wouldn’t quit now,” Horn said with a smile.

You can see more of Vahl's work on his website and Instagram. 

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