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Painted with love: Ecumen residents, staff dress up construction with murals

Ecumen-Detroit Lakes staff members (from left) Shauna Wothe, Brenda Wickline and Janice Bartnes with resident Marie Lundberg (seated), standing next to one of the large murals covering the walls of a temporary access corridor between the facility’s long term and memory care units. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes1 / 2
Another ‘winter wonderland; mural depicting a horse and sleigh ‘dashing through the snow.” DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes2 / 2

While Ecumen-Detroit Lakes is in the midst of a $10 million renovation and expansion project, temporary access hallways are being used to allow residents and staff to travel between various areas of the facility.

Because they are temporary, these hallways are composed of bare white walls that are not very inviting — so some of the healthcare facility’s staff members and residents decided to do something about it.

Starting in late November, Ecumen’s Janice Bartnes and Brenda Wickline spearheaded a project to paint the bare walls of the temporary corridor between the long term and memory care units with a series of colorful murals, depicting everything from a winter wonderland to a favorite fishing hole, Alaskan wilderness and Hawaiian beaches.

Of course, there are also Christmas trees, filled with temporary ornaments that can be replaced to reflect the change of seasons as the building project progresses.

“Instead of looking at bare white walls, we tried to make it more lifelike, colorful and cheerful for our residents,” Bartnes said.

After input from staff, residents, and even a couple of college students from M State, the art project is reaching its final stages.

“We’re putting the finishing touches on it this week,” Wickline said. “It’s been a blast.”

“We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Bartnes agreed.

One of the residents who helped paint the mural, Marie Lundberg, said, “I thought this was a great way to work together to do something that many can enjoy. I love spending time doing meaningful projects.”

The themes for some of the murals directly tied into an activity for the memory care unit residents, where each resident was asked to plan an imaginary vacation, then write postcards to send home.

“The residents talked about where they wanted to go, who would go with them, and who they would send their postcards to,” said Brenda Labine, life enrichment coordinator for Ecumen’s memory care unit.

The postcards are featured on a wall just inside the corridor entrance.

The project has proven to be a big hit.

“The construction workers love it,” Wickline said, noting that they would frequently comment on how the paintings were changing from week to week as they continued work on the building updates.

“The residents love to walk through there too,” she added. “And the therapy staff likes to take the residents walking through there as part of their therapy.”

Though the building project at Ecumen has both cut down on available space and accessibility, “the residents, staff and families have adjusted very well,” said Sandy Lia, fund development coordinator for Ecumen-Detroit Lakes.

“We’ve had to get creative with the spaces we’re using … think outside of the box,” she added. “Doing projects like this one has made it kind of fun.”

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Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454