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Hospital staff make their mark with a new mural

The mural project serves as a reminder of team members’ creativity and collaboration at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

People working on a mural inside a building Hospital staff came together to paint a mural, designed by local artist Jowarnise Caston, in the elevator bay they frequently use in the Children’s Pavilion. (Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU)

By Kate Marino

A hallway frequently used by team members in the Children’s Pavilion got a whole lot brighter recently. Individuals came together to paint a colorful mural designed to keep spirits high and add to the healing atmosphere.

The mural began as the brainchild of Alexis Shockley, manager of VCU Health Arts in Healthcare, who was looking for a way to engage team members and allow them to de-stress, while making their space more enjoyable and healing. Doing what she does best, she put on her creative hat and got to work.

“­­We (Muzi Branch, past director of Arts in Healthcare and Shockley) had some ideas but needed to determine how to bring them to fruition,” Shockley said. “After researching options, we applied for and received a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts.”

two women kneeling and smiling while painting a caterpillar

Alexis Shockley, manager of VCU Health Arts in Healthcare, and Bethany Fisackerly, a child life supervisor at CHoR, unwind while making the mural. Shockley proposed the idea for the mural and recruited local artist Jowarnise Caston to help. (Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU)

Shockley then connected with local artist Jowarnise Caston. Together they designed a mural for the team member elevator bay at the Children’s Pavilion, part of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

“I worked with the artist to create the mural design which uses all of the exact CHoR paint colors you see in the mascots on every floor in the Children’s Tower. It has healing properties of water, flowers for growth and movement,” Shockley said.  

The vibrant colors, whimsical theme and connection to nature were intended to:

  • Create a more uplifting and welcoming atmosphere in the hallway.
  • Spark conversations and boost morale among team members.
  • Serve as a constant reminder of the creativity and collaboration that exists at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Once the initial plans were set, team members were invited to join Caston as their schedules permitted over a three-day period to make their mark and help paint the mural – no previous art experience required. Based on their comments, the purpose of the project was achieved.

security officer painting on the wall

No prior experience with art was required to take part in the project, which allowed team members from across the CHoR to contribute to the mural. (Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU)

"This was a great way to de-stress and connect with colleagues outside of our usual routines."

“I feel happy walking through the space when I’m headed to work now.”

"It was so rewarding to see the mural come together bit by bit, and it looks amazing!"

How the artist and funding helped the mural come to life

Caston’s impressive artwork can be seen in the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Poe Museum, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Hermitage Museum and Gardens, and murals throughout Richmond.

“I was so impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity everyone brought to the table during the painting days,” Caston said. “I'm grateful for the opportunity to have collaborated with VCU Arts in Healthcare…Trusting me to complete a project funded by the Commission for the Arts is a huge compliment. It was a truly rewarding experience, and I hope to see and hear about the positive impact it has on everyone who walks through that hallway going forward.”

The Virginia Commission for the Arts is the state agency dedicated to investing in the arts for the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more than 55 years – since its establishment in 1968 – it has elevated Virginia’s arts organizations, inspired communities across the state, and lifted artists of all disciplines through funding and additional resources. The Virginia Commission for the Arts and Arts in Healthcare at VCU Health split the costs of the mural project.

Woman standing in hallway with mural on the walls

Jowarnise Caston is the Richmond artist who designed the mural and worked with VCU Health Arts in Healthcare. (Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU)