Facility: University Medical Center New Orleans

Location: New Orleans

Artwork designer: Ray King

River Spirit, a colorful and meaningful piece of artwork, adorns the atrium of University Medical Center New Orleans. It was designed, fabricated and installed by artist Ray King. The design is inspired by the evolution of the city itself and the Mississippi River that runs through it.

The artwork consists of five layers of New Orleans city topography that reference historical maps dating from the 1700s to present — 1718, 1840, 1880, 1920 and 2014. The layers reflect the city’s relationship with the river and its expansion through the centuries, with the earliest and smallest settlement at the bottom and the more recent, larger plans at the higher levels.

A polished stainless steel sphere marks the various locations of Charity Hospital throughout its history, which dates to 1736. Charity's 1939 building sustained severe flood damage during Hurricane Katrina and then was replaced by the city’s new medical center. The artwork is made of stainless steel tubes and cables, along with laminated colored and coated dichroic glass elements, durable materials that will neither deteriorate with time nor discolor. The polished stainless steel tubes give definition and reflect light, create shadow patterns and mirror the surrounding space.

The piece was funded by Louisiana’s Percent for Art Program. Enacted in 1999, the program’s enabling legislation stipulates that whenever more than $2 million in state funds is to be spent by a state agency for the construction or renovation of a state building, 1 percent of the state money shall be expended for the project to acquire, conserve, or restore and install works of art for display in, on, or on the grounds of the state building.