An idea and input from the activity coordinator of The Arbor, the memory care wing at Wesley Homes Lea Hill retirement community in Auburn, WA, have blossomed into a mural in the memory care courtyard that can be enjoyed by residents and their families as well as staff members.

Carla Lopez-Wilkerson met artist Andy Eccleshall at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle.

“Not only was I amazed by Andy’s talent,” she said, “but I felt our meeting was serendipitous. I knew The Arbor courtyard would be half its size once construction of our new rehabilitation and care center began, and I wanted to make the courtyard enclosure interesting. The area needed to remain a place of serenity and reflection during and after construction. I think Andy’s art accomplishes that.”

Residents have described the 5-foot-by-70-foot mural as “amazing” and “beautiful.” Eccleshall’s design features the Green River, a train, Mt. Rainier and a field of daffodils, all well-known elements of the Auburn landscape. Using recognizable scenes was an important part of the design since familiar surroundings can play a role in calming an agitated person with dementia.

Though Eccleshall had designed large canvas paintings and murals before, he said he had to make some adjustments to his design for Wesley Homes Lea Hill. “Carla’s information on the needs of the residents was good for me to have. She wanted to make sure they weren’t overstimulated by the art,” he said. “I did one sketch where the river came toward you, but Carla said that could be confusing for them. She wanted me to keep the design simple but bold in its color intensity since pastels can appear grayish.”

The final design has the Green River flowing sideways to encourage residents to follow the river along the mural.

“It was hard for me to stop myself from going more and more into the design,” Eccleshall said. “I’ve painted murals for 22 years, and I love to include those details. But the simplicity of this mural was meant to stir the memories of the residents and encourage conversation. It needed to be simple.”

“I’m so happy with Andy’s work,” Lopez-Wilkerson said. “The Arbor residents may not be able to go to a museum, but Andy helped me bring fine art to them.”

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