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Patients experience healing power of art through mural projects

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

​What was once a nondescript wall on the Crossroads Treatment Mall is transforming into a work of art – thanks to the creative talents of patients and staff.

For the past several months, art therapist Heather Chase and occupational therapist Mary Kim Kaylor have worked with dozens of patients on the mural. Now, when people walk on the first floor of the Leaf building, they’ll see the beginnings of three vertical panels painted with brightly colored shapes and designs.

Chase and Kaylor believe patients enjoy both the art-making process and the opportunity to create a lasting legacy at the hospital. To date, patients have finished one mural in Salem and another in Junction City. They’re now working on their second mural at each campus.

“These projects have encouraged patients to participate in their treatment and to create something permanent for everyone to enjoy,” Chase said. “It’s helped them express their creativity, develop problem-solving skills, and increase their self-esteem.”

Junction City

Jerilyn Klingenberg, a Junction City art therapist, has overseen both mural projects on her campus. The first, located in the Mountain 2 stairwell, consists of vivid, abstract shapes outlined in black. Comprised of “zentangles,” or repetitive patterns, the project began in the spring of 2015 and took about nine months to complete.

She’s now working with patients on a new mural for the Forest 2 stairwell. This one will encompass three walls and will include images of a mountains, trees and a path swathed in sunlight. The mural will symbolize the journey patients take to get well.

“I can see their self-confidence build and how empowered they feel,” Klingenberg said. “That nourishes me. It makes me want to do more and more.”

Admittedly, Klingenberg said the projects take a lot of planning and coordination. Patients have to agree on a theme. They look at other artwork for inspiration, and they practice designs on scratch paper before committing them to the wall.

In the end, she said the healing benefits make all the effort worthwhile.

“Imagination and creativity lives within all of us,” she said. “My patients feel so good to be a part of this project. They enjoy collaborating, listening and sharing ideas with one another. Seeing their faces light up is beautiful.”


In Salem, patients in the Crossroads program first created a mural near the Leaf stack entrance. It features triangles, rectangles and other patterns in various shades of coral, blue, green and yellow.

This mural was inspired by the quilts of Gee’s Bend, a small community of African American women in Alabama. The quilters had faced poverty, isolation and cultural bias – similar to what many patients at Oregon State Hospital have experienced during their lives.

Chase and Kaylor shared information about Gee’s Bend with patients and showed them pictures of the women’s quilts. From there, nearly 30 patients from the Crossroads program explored patterns and colors before choosing their design.

“Our patients have learned skill building and problem solving through planning and design,” Kaylor said. “It’s been a joy to see how much they have loved being involved.”

The Salem patients finished their first mural last December. They hope to finish their second one later this year.

So far, Michael Haak of Flower 1 and Steven Banta of Flower 2 said they like what they see on the Crossroads Treatment Mall. Haak said the mural reminds him of televisions bunched together with white screens. He enjoys painting because it helps him vent his frustrations.

Banta, too, loves the creative process. For him, the mural is a beautiful and lasting symbol of what patients can accomplish by working together.

“To be a part of something feels good,” Banta said. “People need to be able to express themselves, to create something they can look back on.”

Going forward, Chase and Kaylor hope other staff members will lead mural projects of their own. They said patients of any skill level can participate, and the finished results benefit everyone who walks the hospital’s halls.

“We’re really proud of this,” Kaylor said. “The artworks helps give our patients a voice.”


Michael Haak, a patient on Flower 1, adds a splash of color to the new mural in the Crossroads Treatment Mall.

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