Mayo Clinic pairs storytelling and artwork to promote connection and COVID-19 recovery

Jun. 6—EAU CLAIRE — With the help of stories and art, Mayo Clinic Health System and members of the community promote healing and connection amidst the pandemic.

Healing Reflections is a mural installation composed of artwork created to represent the stories and experiences of healthcare workers and community members throughout 2020 and 2021.

The mural installation, currently on display at the UW-Eau Claire Flesch Family Welcome Center, includes 12 stands holding nine panels of artwork. Each panel displays one piece of art, and the panels are arranged in a hexagonal pattern.

The completed mural will consist of 15 stands and 135 pieces of artwork. Sara Martinek, administrative lead for the Healing Reflections Mural project, described the versatility and progress of the project.

"The way that the design is, it can be ongoing. It can continue and we can even branch off into other topics or different ideas as the mural lands somewhere," Martinek said.

The idea for the project came from the Mayo Clinic's Healing Arts Committee.

Martinek said the committee came up with the idea of the mural to bring joy to the staff members following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mural was initially proposed to be displayed at the Eau Claire campus of Mayo Clinic, but local leadership decided a mobile mural could promote more community involvement.

Mayo Clinic staff and committee members were tasked with reflecting and sharing their stories of hope, resilience, hardship and perseverance.

After they were collected, artists were given a selection of stories and instructed to interpret them using any medium. They were encouraged to choose stories that resonated with them and create a panel that represented the storyteller's experience.

Tracy Kennedy, Healing Arts Committee member and mural artist, described her involvement in creating art for the mural as remarkable, specifically the creative liberty the artists were given.

"We were really able to look within our own creative experience and see what moved us. And depending on how it moved us, what kind of medium we wanted to use," Kennedy said.

Kennedy created nine pieces of art for the installation. One of her installations, titled "The Invisible Angels Series", was inspired by two stories of employees who worked at Mayo Clinic Oakridge.

The art piece displays angel wings, constructed with feathers, featured in a shadow box. According to Kennedy's artist note, when the wings are mounted on the wall, the angel in between the wings becomes invisible and it is left to the one viewing the art to interpret it.

"I wanted to do a piece of art where the art itself depicted the level of the compassion depicted in these two beautiful stories. My goal in doing this series was to bring visibility to the invisible altruistic actions of these special employees. With purposeful intent to engage the one looking at the art to experience how the patient saw the employee but could not see their angelic wings," the author's note stated.

Kennedy described working on this project as a privilege and an honor because she could hear someone else's story and turn it into something that people could see.

Martinek reflected on the positive impacts of connecting with the storytellers and artists, and hearing the different stories of people who felt validated and healed through this project.

Kennedy shared similar sentiments sharing how this mural represents healing as a beautiful thing that is not static but perpetually evolving.

"Every time we heal, every time we have this scar of resilience we become better," said Kennedy. "When I look at this whole mural, to me I see scars, but scars that are so beautiful."

Martinek and Kennedy were grateful to everyone who participated and for their willingness to be vulnerable and transparent through their stories.

The Healing Reflections mural is on display at the UW-Eau Claire Flesch Family Welcome Center through June 17. Visitors can view the artwork and stories daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.