Health Team

Colorful mural captures contributions of health care heroes at Duke Hospital

Posted April 27
Updated April 28

— About 24,000 employees at Duke University Hospital – from cafeteria workers to doctors treating patients in the COVID ward – have risked their lives to work during the pandemic. A new mural hanging in the hospital halls is now shedding light on their heroic efforts during a historic time. The images speak for themselves – panels of spray-painted portraits capturing the lives of all types of frontline heroes.

“It’s really exciting. I think I look much better in a mural,” said Cameron Leathers-Clayborne, a clinical nurse in the ICU. She’s among those who can see themselves represented as they head to see the next patient.

“I think it brings life to the hospital, especially the colors," she said. "The truth that it reveals of everybody having a role and working towards the ultimate goal of making sure we have a healthy community."

It shows everyone working together, from food service workers and engineers to hospital transporters.

“This is an entire community of people who stepped up, came to work every single day no matter how hard it was. And we wanted to recognize and celebrate all of those people,” said Sharon Swanson, the manager of arts and health at Duke.

Swanson's department commissioned local artist Sean Kernick to bring a snapshot of individual stories to life.

“This really reflected the energy of the family environment that they have here, that everyone was thrown in, the tumbling, overlapping of responsibilities that were occurring over the past year,” the artist said.

To make it happen, he transformed his backyard into a studio, carefully spray-painting each canvas with purpose.

Kernick wanted viewers to "see the dedication, and the compassion that everybody has along the way at this hospital."

“It’s been really refreshing to feel like you have a purpose and something that you’re working towards,” added Leathers-Clayborne.

The artwork will become a part of a permanent collection at Duke University Hospital that features about 4,000 pieces.