PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center has unveiled an 18-foot mural that took the work of more than 100 Port Angeles High School students as well as Lower Elwha Klallam tribal members and hospital personnel to create.
The triptych mural, presented at a reception Thursday at the hospital at 939 Caroline St., will be installed in a courtyard outside the telemetry unit, which is for patients not ill enough for ICU but still in need of constant monitoring and care, according to Lorraine Wall, chief nursing officer and chief operations officer.
“It used to be very dreary,” Wall said of the courtyard. “There was nothing that was uplifting for the patients.”
The unit’s council of nurses and aides, who come together on a regular basis to discuss how to improve their unit, considered how to revamp that space, Wall said.
“Last year, they got pots and flowers, but it was still lacking,” Wall said.
Shari Byers, a registered nurse, contacted the Port Angeles High School art department in the summer of 2017 “to find out if we had any interest in helping them to beautify a courtyard on the hospital campus with some artwork from high school students,” said Shawne Johnson, PAHS art teacher.
“I was eager to accept the invitation, as our students always benefit from engaging in real-world, community-based projects,” Johnson said.
Students discussed ideas for imagery that would invoke a calming feeling, reference the protective and healing elements of our region, and that would orient patients to their surroundings, Johnson added.
“Discussions led to the idea to use a triptych and to include stylized imagery of the physical surroundings here, highlighting Native Elwha Klallam designs which are unique to this region, ” Johnson said.
Johnson and her students approached Jamie Valadez, a high school teacher and a tribal elder, for permission to include Elwha Klallam design work in the mural and to help guide them to ensure the designs were authentic.
“She was able to support this design process with us,” Johnson said. “We have many Native students here, and it’s important to communicate all of our stories into the work we do together.”
The three panels of the mural — each 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide — consist of assembled square panels painted by art class students.
The mural includes depictions of Thunderbird, for power, protection and strength; Orca, for family, longevity, harmony, community and protection; Salmon, for abundance and renewal; the Sun, which represents life’s abundance and which radiates healing and peace; and Moon, a protector and guardian.
“These designs together communicate the protective and healing elements of our region, also inspiring harmony and balance,” Johnson said.
“One important part of the story of this mural is that we were given permission to include imagery from our local Elwha Klallam tribe in the mural design,” she said.
“This is a privilege and honor and helps our students connect themselves to the history and stories of this region.”
About 40 people attended Thursday’s reception, said Jeff Anderson, marketing manager for OMC. Students and their families attended and Lower Elwha tribal members spoke briefly of the tribe’s history and sang songs.
The mural will be installed in the outdoor courtyard after it is waterproofed, probably in the next couple of weeks, Wall said.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected]