Residents of George Pearson Centre in South Vancouver can hang on to a bit of summer for a little while longer thanks to a freshly painted mural of giant sunflowers.
The mural for the courtyard of the long-term care facility was the brainchild of Judy Howard, a master gardener from VanDusen Botanical Garden. Howard said while working on the gardens and pond nearby, the wall was a distraction.
Howard said she was always saying to fellow gardeners, “The blank wall, we should be doing something with this blank wall.”
Howard approached her friend’s daughter, Megan Mattock, an artist who had just graduated from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, with the idea of painting the wall.
Mattock, 29, jumped at the chance and recruited former classmate Katie Nielsen to help her out. Over a three-day period this past summer the women worked eight hours a day to complete the mural. They donated their labour, and the Centre reimbursed them for the cost of the paint and supplies.
According to Mattock, the biggest challenge was translating the idea of the sunflowers, a suggestion by a Pearson resident, from a small sketchbook to a large wall.
Mattock said she was also used to working alone, whereas the mural became a very public project. Not only did she have to work with a partner in Nielsen a mixed-media artist, and two other friends who chipped in to help complete the project, she had to get used to the comings and goings of residents who wanted to chat and give suggestions for the piece. Though nervous at first, Mattock said the additional voices helped rather than hindered the mural’s progress.
“It evolved while we were there,” she said. The painters added a ladybug and some additional red sunflowers in response to the requests of residents.
Mattock said she found talking with the residents, all of whom use a wheelchair and have severe disabilities that require specialized care, enriched the experience because of their “different perspectives on the world.”
Nielsen, 25, agreed that the experience of getting to know the residents was a very positive one. The residents would say encouraging things like “beautiful girls, just beautiful,” she said.
The George Pearson Centre, built in 1952 to care for tuberculosis patients, is set to be replaced starting in late 2015 as part of a recently announced redevelopment plan for the Pearson Dogwood Lands.
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