June 22nd, 2024

Mystery artist brightening hospital halls at CRH


By Ry Clarke - for the Lethbridge Herald on April 9, 2022.

Submitted photo Laurie Litchfield works at Chinook Regional Hospital drawing artwork on a hallway under construction in secret to help spread joy to those in the building.

Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital has a mystery artist spreading joy through the hospital using white plastic poly in an area of the hospital under construction as a canvas.
Laurie Litchfield is a porter at CRH and the now revealed artist behind the artwork, using a dry erase marker and construction poly-plastic to tell a story.
“The idea started because of COVID. All of us here at the hospital we’re one big family, and we’re kind of confined indoors all the time, right? When they started putting up these walls of plastic, because they’re working on the exhaust system or something, there’s this big wall, the entire catwalk is what I call it, between the hospital laboratory and the operating theatres and ICU. After about two weeks, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s too big a canvas to ignore.’ So, I just grabbed some markers and I just started drawing trees. I wanted a winter scene up there.”
A mystery at first, Litchfield wanted her first addition to the wall to be a gift to everybody, a Christmas Card. With positive momentum and secret admirers, Litchfield sought to record more holidays and important dates on the canvas on poly, drawing illustrations for New Year’s, Valentine’s day, and even a flag to support Ukraine.
“I didn’t want it to be political. But I did have a few people ask me, why don’t you put the Ukrainian flag up there? And then another person asked, and then another person asked, and it comes to my heart because my mother’s parents immigrated from there.”
The artwork was intended to spread joy to those passing by, for everyone. Litchfield took care to represent holidays but also included art that would be appropriate for all cultures and groups that would see the mural.
Hospital Administration was not upset with Litchfield’s work, and was happy for the kindness it spread while offering a chuckle or smile.
James Ostoya, site manager at Chinook Regional Hospital, says the artwork is a nice initiative.
“The nature of the pictures are they just appeal to everybody… You can see that there’s different themes. There’s a Christmas theme, there’s a New Year’s theme, there’s Mardi Gras and Easter, and just everything in between.”
Artwork also aids patients at CRH, as the hallway is a transportation route to the operating room. Porters use the art as a conversation starter to help ease patients with anxiety.
Ostoya says its unexpected to see, making for a better experience.
“What I’ve heard is that the porters use it as a point of conversation to calm people down. Because you have to walk through when people are being pushed through on the stretcher, they’ll see probably about half of the pictures.”
Litchfield says the project wasn’t about recognition, enjoying her mystery while it lasted.
“I had one person ask me, so who did you ask for permission to do this? I said, I didn’t ask anybody. I just couldn’t resist it. That’s another reason I kept it anonymous. I didn’t want anybody to start saying ‘so-and-so did this’. Then as it went on, people were realizing that it’s just one person doing all of this and I said, yeah that’s me.”
Litchfield says she never attended art school but likes drawing, doing murals and other work as a pastime for fun, though she hopes to pursue more artistic endeavours.
CRH will be drawing inspiration from the mural, working with the construction team to make sure Litchfield’s artwork will be preserved.
“Hospitals are seeing more volumes,” said Ostoya. “Your workers are working a lot, and taking the time to reflect on art kind of helps you de-stress.”
Litchfield is happy her art is appreciated, saying “I’m trying to make people laugh as well as just be at ease while in the building.”

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