Mural celebrates hospital's roots in the community

A tree like no other stands in the lobby of the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

Nearly eight feet tall, it is the focal point of an impressive collaborative mural mosaic created by patients, hospital staff, volunteers, community members and local artist Lewis Lavoie. A total of 576 individually painted tiles were assembled into the final art piece that commemorates Covenant Health’s 10th anniversary.

“It really symbolizes just how much stronger we are together,” says Charlene Moore, Project Lead on the mural and a Unit Manager with the hospital, which is part of Covenant Health.

“We are rooted in the community. We are rooted in our values.”

Nestled in the roots of the tree is a plaque that reads "Stronger Together," a key phrase of the 10th-anniversary theme—Many Voices, One Mission: Stronger Together. The trunk reflects the sturdiness of Covenant Health, and the rich bounty of leaves represent all those who enter the facility, explains Lewis.

“The leaves are all the people who come and go from the hospital,” he says. “I see a lot of life in these tiles.”

The project saw individuals donate $30 to paint their own design on a tile using assigned colours at workshops held throughout November. There were 400 tiles available to the public. Lewis took the completed individual tiles, reserving the remaining 176 for himself so he could ensure necessary elements, and arranged them into the finished piece.

The individually painted tiles tell different stories. Some feature a loved one’s name amidst the colours; others could stand alone as works of art.

“We wanted people to express themselves,” says Lewis.

For Phil Alain, who works with Lewis, the project’s collaboration is fitting, given the tree’s meaning. 

“It’s very much a true sense of what community is about. Everybody has a voice, but together we’re all part of the community, and that’s the mural,” says Phil.

That collaboration meant those who painted the tiles have forged a lasting connection with the hospital, says Charlene.

“I thought it would be a really great way to bring people together. Everyone gets to leave a little part of themselves at the hospital, and their contributions become a part of this big overall mural for everyone else to enjoy and look at.”

Pharmacy Technician Michelle Ducharme agrees.

“I chose to paint a tile because I wanted my legacy to also be on the wall for the lifetime that the hospital is going to be open.”

Audrey Lack, Transition Co-ordinator at the Grey Nuns, included her grandson’s name, Deegan, on her tile so she can bring him to the hospital to show him he’s part of a work of art. For her, the mural sends an important positive message.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she says. “I think it’s a celebration of everyone who comes to this building, whether they’re a patient or staff.”

Lewis says he was honoured to contribute, particularly because he feels a strong connection to the hospital’s namesake order, Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns of Alberta). His aunt, Sister Marie Ann, a resident of Youville Home, belongs to the order.

“I spent a lot of time with her,” says Lewis, who has painted more than 200 murals that are spread across Canada and beyond, including Britain.

This isn’t the first time the St. Albert native has drawn inspiration from the Grey Nuns. A 60-foot-wide mural on Perron Street honours the same order of Sisters for their contributions to the community.

“I love the Grey Nuns and what they stand for,” says Lewis. “Those were the most industrious ladies. They built schools, health care, communities. They got things done.”

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