USF Curiosities: A 40-foot Band-Aid?

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James Rosenquist, It Heals Up: For All Children’s Hospital (2002), USF Collection

Mom! Mom, look! A giant Band-Aid!

Walking into a hospital can be a scary experience for anyone. But, for a sick child, walking into a hospital seems particularly daunting. The Children’s Research Institute (CRI) at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus makes that experience a little less scary due to its inclusion of a public art project. Art has a way of connecting people, promoting a sense of togetherness, and providing a sense of belonging. And that’s why James Rosenquist’s public art project is so important. Rosenquist believes that “It Heals Up is an optimistic sculpture about showing how the magic of the human body can overcome terrible afflictions with the magic and hard work and expertise of the Doctors and staff of the University of South Florida’s All Children’s Medical Research Center. I commend them for their spirit.”[1]


Want to learn more about this fascinating moment in USF history?

Read about how James Rosenquist’s public art project, It Heals Up: For All Children’s Hospital (2002), came to be from the recollections of Vincent Ahern, former Director of Public Art at the USF Institute for Research in Art, below:

This research facility, designed in part by local architectural firm Albert Alfonso, provided a unique opportunity for a public art project. The site was unusual in that it was a wall, approximately five stories high and 40 feet wide, made out of solid brick.

The wall seemed to beg to have something on it and the something on it, as it turns out, is a giant Band-Aid. 40 feet long, 10 feet wide, designed and then painted by James Rosenquist as a gift to the university. Again, generosity plays such a big role in what we’re able to do, and here we had that—it’s funny, a lot of our budgets are in the thirties, this one happened to be 37,000 dollars. And so, as we sat together as a group, the selection committee said, Gee, you know, it’d be really wonderful if we could do a major project for that wall but that’s going to involve an artist who can work in that scale and it’s an image that will be present in downtown St. Petersburg. We really need a top-notch artist and this isn’t a very big budget. What do you think? And Margaret Miller, actually, was one of the art experts serving on that committee, as was Peter Foe, who is the curator for our collection, and myself. And we all sort of sat around and Peter finally suggested, “You know, maybe we could ask James Rosenquist if he would kind of contribute his services.” And I thought, Gee, that’s an idea. Jim has a great affinity for children and particularly is concerned about children who suffer from various illnesses. And so I called Jim and I asked him, and about a year later, after I sent him a brick for the building, he wanted to know what color that brick was. It was very important to his decision to do this project. But after he got a sample of the brick for the building, he said, “Yeah, I’ll do it. And I’ll do it for free.”

James Rosenquist, It Heals Up: For All Children’s Hospital (2002), USF Collection

The reason he wanted that brick is the Band-Aid, it’s almost like being peeled up from the skin of the building. And so he saw the brick as a metaphor for human skin. He wanted a brick that would reference a diverse group of races. And so it couldn’t be sort of a bright white or a sort of pinkish brick. It needed to be something that could suggest white, African, American Indian, a myriad of races. And it was the right color. And so Jim agreed to do the project …[2]

So, the idea of the Band-Aid that Jim had was, he wanted, he was a pop artist, so his work derives from popular culture. He wanted an image on the building that would immediately let children know as they go by that this place is about them. It’s for them and about them. And a kid’s Band-Aid that’s sort of a bright, decorative, Band-Aid, something all kids relate to. Jim has children and he talked about occasionally putting Band-Aids on his kids’ finger, even though there wasn’t anything wrong there; just because it made them feel better. And so, he felt that if we put a Band-Aid up there that was brightly decorated like a kid’s Band-Aid, that kids would understand.

The day we were installing it I had the opportunity to watch a group of kids go on by with their mom who immediately looked up and said, “Mom! Mom, look! A giant Band-Aid!” This is for us. Jim’s there, Jim Rosenquist is there, taking this in with just this wonderful smile. So, again, one feels so strongly about projects when you’re that closely involved but with good reason. To see the effect that this has, again, in the public realm is always something that kind of keeps you going, and not just myself but the others that are involved.

USF 50th (2006) Anniversary Oral History Project, “Vincent Ahern,” (U23-00002) p. 17-18,


To see images of and additional information on James Rosenquist’s It Heals Up: For All Children’s Hospital (2002), please visit the USF Institute for Research in Art Public Art Program site:

Uncover more about USF’s early history and the fun, and sometimes curious, events that occurred here by listening to the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project, housed in Digital Collections.


Want more USF Curiosities? Check out the posts in this series:



[1] Jeffett, William. (2022, October 18). James Rosenquist, It Heals Up: For All Children’s Hospital, 2002. University of South Florida Institute for Research in Art.

[2] Additional section from Vincent Ahern’s oral history regarding the funding necessary for this public art project:

“He designed a project that was more than the budget that we had. Even though he wasn’t taking any money, we still needed to build it and it was going to exceed the budget. I turned to Dennis Sexon, who was president of the All Children’s Hospital Foundation at the time and who obviously does fundraising for them. He said, ‘Dennis, we’re going to need significant additional dollars.’ He said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000.’ And we haven’t checked it all out yet but that’s probably what it would take.’ He said, ‘I think I could help you out with that. I’ll make some calls.’ 24 hours later I get a call from saying, ‘Look, you know, I used to play little league baseball with this guy and he’s agreed to donate 100,000 dollars to the project. The guy is Raymond James from Raymond James financial institution. And they contributed 100,000, which enabled us to build the project and to set up an endowment that will maintain the project in perpetuity.”

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