Hand-painted winter scape warms up waiting room of SSM Health clinic

December 15, 2022


Muralist Artemio Huerta creates a winter scene on windows in a waiting room at SSM Health Dean Medical Group's east Madison, Wisconsin, clinic. This is the third consecutive year that the former clinic staffer has painted the windows.

When the day's high temperature hovers at or below freezing, Artemio Huerta's chilly scenes bring warmth and cheer to patients in a waiting area of SSM Health Dean Medical Group's east Madison, Wisconsin, clinic. The former clinic staffer hand-painted the intricate winter scape on the windowpanes.

Over the course of about two weeks in mid-November, Huerta spent several hours a day adorning the second-story windows with a panorama of snow-covered hills and ice-laced evergreens. There's a horse-drawn carriage, a snowman family, snow children snowboarding, a steam locomotive rounding a bend and a cluster of cozy lakeside cottages.

A snowman family greets winter in Madison, Wisconsin, with open (stick) arms in Artemio Huerta's mural. It's becoming a tradition for Huerta to paint the wall of windows in a second floor waiting room of a SSM Health Dean Medical Group clinic where he once worked.

This is the third consecutive year that Huerta, a former member of the clinic's housekeeping crew, has created a window mural of a winter scene for the clinic. The designs are entirely from his imagination.

Picturesque pumpkin
A self-taught artist, Huerta got a second job in the clinic's environmental services department in 2018. He'd continued painting indoor and outdoor murals for Wisconsin restaurants and creating artwork on canvas — something he'd been doing professionally since about 2012.

Artemio Huerta created a winter scene, including a horse-drawn carriage, on windows in a waiting room at SSM Health Dean Medical Group's east Madison, Wisconsin, clinic.

His SSM Health colleagues were unaware of his artistic gifts until they saw his winning entry in a 2019 pumpkin decorating competition for clinic staff. Torri Grow, a patient access representative for the clinic, says Huerta's painting on the pumpkin — a haunted house with trees —was "just amazing."

Grow urged Huerta to paint a wintry scene on the clinic's windows. She and other colleagues bought the paints. Though Huerta had never painted on glass, he accepted the invitation, completing his first window scape early in 2020, just as the pandemic was hitting.

Artemio Huerta painted this scene for a former co-worker of his in the housekeeping department at SSM Health. The colleague's husband had died, and Huerta painted his favorite fishing spot for her. The colleague says this painting has great significance to her.

The pandemic shut down childcare facilities, and Huerta says he had to resign his clinic job to stay home with his then-6-year-old daughter and newborn son. After the birth, his wife went back to work as a speech pathologist for SSM Health.

Huerta kept his commercial mural business going through the pandemic. While he says he'd gladly paint the murals at the clinic without compensation, employees fundraise to pay him a small stipend in appreciation.

New fallen snow
For the most part, he paints from what he sees in his head, doing no preparatory sketches before putting brush to pane. He says he does some research online on painting techniques for certain features of his paintings.

Muralist Artemio Huerta creates a winter scene on windows in a waiting room at SSM Health Dean Medical Group's east Madison, Wisconsin, clinic.

Huerta says he loves to paint snow scenes. Originally from Mexico, he came to Wisconsin in 1995 and experienced for the first time freezing temperatures and a fresh blanket of snow. While he could do without the cold, he says he's still wowed by the beauty of snow.

He plans to return to the clinic in the spring to give the window display a seasonal lift — perhaps adding spring leaves to the trees. Although no information was available on whether the snow people will survive the spring thaw in Madison, Grow says the clinic likely will keep this year's mural up until June.

Huerta says he looks forward to returning year after year to paint the window murals. "I had never done this kind of painting before. I didn't even know it could be done on glass. It is challenging to do but also fun!"

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