Continuing care residents take a shine to rural scenes that remind them of home
Story by Sara Blake | Photo by Sandy Rauscher
BARRHEAD — There’s a quaint farmhouse and barn here, with a barnyard full of cows, horse, sow, piglets, chickens and sheep. A stream runs through golden fields, where antique farm equipment reminds us of years gone by. It’s all thanks to artist Tammy Taylor, who envisioned the appealing homestead as a mural for residents to enjoy at the Barrhead Continuing Care Centre.
“This is the biggest work I’ve ever done,” says Taylor, who also works as a hair stylist at the centre. “The wall is 43 feet long and 8 feet high — and I painted the entire wall.”
The attractive mural has generated interest and positive comments among residents, families and staff alike.
“I sit at a desk nearby and there’s a lot of conversation about how it has enhanced our unit,” says Sandy Rauscher, Care Manager at the Alberta Health Services (AHS) centre.
Rauscher says she’d been looking for ways to engage older residents and brighten up the facility. While she already knew Taylor through her work as an onsite hair stylist, she hadn’t realized what an accomplished artist she was until a few of her coworkers shared how much they thoroughly enjoyed themselves at a paint-night, with Taylor as their instructor.
“Tammy actually has artwork traveling through Asia, and she’s been to New York with some other works,” adds Rauscher. “So we talked about what we’d like to see in the mural. What she came back with was so true to life, it looked amazing.”
When approached to paint a mural, Taylor agreed to take on the project, and provided a preliminary sketch of a farm scene set in the Barrhead region, says Jenny Nanninga, AHS Seniors Health Manager for the area, who also saw the opportunity to bring a few community partners on board.
“I approached two equipment dealerships here in Barrhead and asked them if they’d like to be involved, as a thank-you to some of their former customers now in continuing care,” says Nanninga.
“I asked them to let us know what type of equipment would be appropriate for the era depicted in the mural — and explained that it would be the artist’s interpretation as to how she would fit those in. I didn’t want it to turn into an advertisement.”
A John Deere tractor and plow, a vintage Versatile tractor and a Vermeer baler number among the images on the wall. Residents were also invited to share their feedback throughout the creative process, with many of their ideas now appearing in the finished artwork.
Residents often pause by the wall to chat about their own farm memories. Some even pet the realistic animals. Taylor says it’s wonderful to see them so invested in the project and the images of memories so near and dear to their hearts.
“I thought a few in particular would appreciate it,” she says. “But there were some who I hadn’t heard speak in the two years I’ve been here — and they kept coming up and talking to me as I was painting.”
“One gentleman really wanted a dog. He kept telling me, ‘It doesn’t make sense that there’s a farm with no dog.’ So I said, OK I’ll paint you a dog. He’d come by every day and tell the other residents, ‘you know what it’s missing…’
“And then one day I stopped him and said, ‘Look what it’s NOT missing!’ And he noticed the dog and was so grateful. ‘Now it makes sense!’ he said, ‘It’s complete.’”
Other departments, including maintenance and housekeeping, became involved and supported the project by preparing the wall for painting.
Rauscher and Nanninga agree the mural has become more than just a piece of wall art.
“It gives people something to talk about,” says Nanninga. “And our centre certainly feels more welcoming.”