DENVER — For most of this pandemic, the employee entrance as Saint Joseph Hospital was cold and dreary. Front line workers were greeted each day by dark cinder block walls and harsh fluorescent lighting as they prepared to enter the hospital during a time of immense stress.
To make the space a bit more inviting, employees began to leave messages in chalk on the walls; slogans of gratitude like “You Do Great!” soon took over the dark gray walls.
Dr. Christyna Chaudhuri wanted to take it a step further. Her husband Raj is a painter. “What could we do to inspire and say thank you for all of this hard work that so many different kinds of people at the hospital do?” they wondered. The answer: a mural.
Front Line Mural
Artists find a way to give thanks to those serving on the front lines of the pandemic.
Raj partnered with artist Karlee Mariel to create a colorful mountainscape with numerous front line health care workers in the foreground.
“Because it’s a space that these doctors pass every single day...we thought that maybe, just for a few seconds out of their day, it could brighten and uplift their experience in and out of [the hospital],” Mariel explained.
The artwork, which took four weeks to complete, appears to be a hit with the Saint Joseph staff.
“I love this mural...I love that all our associates are represented in some form or fashion—male, female, volunteers, dieticians, physicians, nurses,” explained Katie Yahya, a physical therapist at Saint Joseph. “It’s not just one type of associate.”
Mariel said she wanted the mural to function as a mirror, a way to "reflect back" to hospital workers the upliftment that they have given to their community.
“There have been times when it’s really tough to walk through those doors. Like, it really wasn’t something you looked forward to walking through,” Yahya recalled. “So now you walk through those doors—you might be taking some deep breaths as you are about to walk into you-don’t-know-what—but you’re surrounded by somewhat familiar faces.”
In keeping with the chalk-message tradition, St. Joseph staff were encouraged to use paint markers to write messages around the mural. One in particular has become a popular refrain among the front line workers: “You can do hard things.”
“I need to hear that from the people I work with,” Yahya said. “I love all the community support that we got and continue to get, but only the people who have worked in the hospital for the last year can really know what you’re going through.”