Renovation & Design

The magic of murals

Winnipeg artist transforms bland to beautiful with wall paintings

Laurie Mustard / Winnipeg Free Press

Leslie Corrin and Ruth Hadden hired Rachel Lancaster to paint the side of their garage with a mural featuring cedars.

Sometimes you just have to give up.

That’s exactly what Leslie Corrin and Ruth Hadden of Scotia Street did after years of trying to grow cedars along the side of their garage. Finally, the mortality rate got to be more than the couple could bear.

So they considered their options and, in a brush stroke of genius, decided on a mural instead of cedars.

Nothing to water, nothing to nurture, just all-weather paint that gives them all the nature and ambience they’ve been seeking, without the work — not to mention the frustration.

Excellent choice. Another excellent choice is the artist they commissioned to do the mural, Winnipeg’s Rachel Lancaster, whose creative murals and other artwork are constantly bringing joy to people’s faces, transforming bland to grand, blank to beautiful.

Nowhere is that having a bigger impact than in care homes here in friendly Manitoba. When I last featured Lancaster, she shared that especially in care facilities where dementia and Alzheimer’s are prevalent, she disguises doors residents are not supposed to use with a mural essentially making the door disappear, becoming part of the scenery. Definitely helps reduce patient risk.

To bring some warmth and a catalyst for good memories to a sterile room, Lancaster often paints a toasty fireplace as a feature on a wall. No surprise that residents actually pull up a chair to sit and have a yak in front of it, simply because it takes them back to the enjoyment and companionship they felt in front of real fireplaces over the years.

She also covers walls with huge beautiful flowers — so much more comforting than clinic green.

I’m wondering if staff ever adds a plug-in flower scent diffuser to complement the bouquets. One thing I do remember about my Mom spending her last years in a personal care home (due to dementia), is it would have been nice if there’d been a way to add a friendlier, less institutional scent throughout the building — again, just as a means to trigger some of the nicer memories of years gone by.

Just as with show homes, maybe they could give residents a more down-home feel by filling the air with the wonderful smell of cinnamon buns baking once in a while, and serve the buns to go with it. I think quality of life in personal care homes may even be more important than just staying alive.

I suggested to Lancaster maybe a big wall filled with kitten faces would get some "awes" and of course bring back some wonderful memories of "furmily" members that brought them so much love and happiness throughout the years.

Or kids with a ball playing fetch with a golden retriever or two; you’d need a good long wall for that. Lancaster also does farm scenes, a tractor now and then; people having a picnic is always a good trigger for great memories. I wonder how many hard-boiled eggs I ate at family picnics over the years. And devilled eggs too. There should maybe be a picnic day once in a while in care homes as well (if there isn’t already...)

Whatever it takes to help make life more interesting, and especially more enjoyable.

To the personal care homes already incorporating murals as positive, calming atmosphere, bravo, and to those yet to do so, Lancaster tells me the reaction from residents — both while she is painting and then after — is totally heartwarming. Well worth looking into.

Hey, humour is always important regarding mood elevation, how about painting a big skunk on a wall where residents could go to.... nah, probably not a good idea.

You will find, however, lots of great ideas by Googling Creative Reign Artwork and Murals by Rachel Lancaster. Really worth a good look.

Comments or feedback, love to hear from you!


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