Aug. 27, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A “Thank You” sign paying tribute to frontline workers battling COVID-19 at Elmhurst hospital has been decommissioned after being up for five months.
The sign was put up outside the hospital in March by artist Scott LoBaido as a way of expressing his gratitude to hospital workers who had been putting their lives at risk to help others during the coronavirus pandemic.
The artwork, which measured 8 feet by 4 feet per letter and stretched 40 feet wide in total, was taken down by LoBaido during a ceremony Friday and has been moved inside the hospital where it will stay. LoBaido decided to take the sign down as it was not supposed to be a permanent installation.
LoBaido said that he had been putting up similar signs outside hospitals in his native Staten Island when COVID-19 first struck and decided to do the same at Elmhurst Hospital because it had become “ground zero” of the pandemic.
The artist cut letters out of polystyrene using a jigsaw and then tied them to a fence with tape and wire. The fence borders the Frank D. O’ Connor Playground, located at 79-01 Broadway, and faces the hospital.
LoBaido, who has been creating patriotic art for 25 years, said his Elmhurst sign stood out from his other signs because of the outpouring of emotion it generated.
The artist said that workers at the hospital came out to greet him and thank him before he finished putting it up.
“These guys were coming out and I saw this excitement and even if it was for a minute… what they went through in there, and I said I think this is a good thing I’m doing, that guys smiling, he shouldn’t be smiling,” LoBaido said.
The sign struck a chord with workers and residents and people began writing messages of appreciation across the artwork.
Some of the messages read “thank you, true champions,” “dear doctors and nurses, thank you so much for everything, all of you guys are heroes,” and “Elmhurst strong.
LoBaido said that this didn’t happen to his signs in Staten Island.
“It’s very overwhelming…to see the emotion on my artwork that I created that it became twice as big as a piece of art,” LoBaido said, as he fought back tears.
“So I’m glad that it stayed here and I’m very glad that you’re keeping it and putting it somewhere in the hospital,” he said.
LoBaido was the first to take down a piece of the structure and the hospital’s engineering and maintenance team took down the rest. The artwork has been placed at a secure location inside the hospital while management decide on a suitable spot to display in the future.
Hospital staff expressed their thanks to LoBaido for the artwork and said that it helped them get through their work fighting the virus.
“The Elmhurst Hospital community can’t begin to express our thanks to Mr. LoBaido for his amazing gift to us,” Israel Rocha, Vice President of NYC Health + Hospitals and CEO of Elmhurst and Queens Hospitals said.
“At our darkest hour, his iconic message of hope and gratitude lifted our spirits as we treated a community at the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rocha said.
LoBaido then presented hospital staff with a painting he created of first responders pushing the American flag into the ground.
The painting is an imitation of the famous “Raising the Flag” photograph taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima during the Pacific War.