The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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300 Booth Drive    Location Map

This is the view from the Emergency waiting room window on the Second Floor.

Location: only visible from Emergency admitting window or from Cancer Ward window

Occupant: Grace General Hospital

District: Assiniboia

Neighbourhood: Booth

Artist(s): Vivian Muska, Christy Mathers

Year: 2002


Source: Winnipeg Free Press, August 2, 2002, reproduced with permission.

Mural cheers cancer patients
Artist's work on Grace project coincided with mother's diagnosis
By Alexandra Paul

A Mural for cancer patients took on a whole new meaning for an artist when her mother was diagnosed with cancer halfway through the job.

"It's really a bizarre twist," artist Vivian Muska said yesterday at a reception to unveil the bright acrylic paint Mural at the Grace General Hospital.

"I started the painting at the beginning of June and my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of July.

"She's a patient here now," Muska said, as she pointed out various features of her Mural that covers a concrete wall outside the windows of the cancer care unit.

On the Mural, Muska painted a special symbol her mother instantly recognizes as a gesture of daughterly love.

"The symbol for my mother are the bluebells," she said, gesturing to huge nodding heads of bluebells at the border of the 188-square metre Mural.

"I grew up on a farm and I used to give my mother bluebells so those bluebells are for her," Muska said.

Muska's mother, Brenda Muska, 64, was too sick to attend her daughter's opening.

Other patients and staff who know of the heartbreaking coincidence say the artist's work shows an uncommon sensitivity that embraces both sorrow and hope in a way cancer patients faced with mortality can understand.

"The flowers are heart-shaped and there is a loon there because sometimes we all feel a little loonie. You can watch birds going to holes in the wall where the Mural is- real live birds. I've seen a couple," said patient Susan Hamilton, 55, who was sitting in a lounge chair facing the Mural as intravenous lines dripped chemotherapy drugs into her veins yesterday.

The painting is dominated by a happy-face sun that has a golden arm stretched out holding a yellow daffodils, the symbol of the Canadian Cancer Society.

"The sun holding the daffodils is a symbol. It's holding rays of hope for these people- to never stop living," said Muska of the Mural named Daydream.

The painting also incorporates a dozen other symbols chosen by cancer patients who now have the Mural to cheer them up when they're hooked up to chemotherapy.

Cancer unit manager Laurie Read said the process of painting the Mural was cathartic for patients who participated by choosing many of the symbols.

"I've seen patients sharing their stories about the symbols and that is very healing. It's therapeutic," Read said.

The work got under way when Read's temporary replacement, Seven Oaks nurse manager Kora Otto-Shannon, spotted a newspaper feature about the artist and asked her to paint the Mural.

"If I didn't read the Free Press I wouldn't have found Vivian," Otto-Shannon said.

The one day that Muska did not paint was the first day her mother had chemotherapy.

"She called me up and said, 'I can't paint today with my mother sitting in that chair watching me.' I know as a nurse, having met Vivian this way, she has touched me," Otto- Shannon said.

One patient was a soccer fanatic so the Mural has a soccer ball. There's a dog and a boreal forest and waterfall.