On one wall, a picture frame window overlooks a peaceful lake, offering a soothing view. The other wall includes a welcoming fireplace.

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New Mural Commissioned for Grand Itasca Emergency Department Connects Community with Health Care

A local artist just wrapped up a mural in the Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital Emergency Department. The new mural illustrates the inside of a wood cabin with a stone fireplace and a view out of a large picture frame window of a calming lake with the intent to improve patient experience in the Emergency Department for someone in a mental health crisis.
  • November 02, 2023
  • By Staff Writer

Changemaker: Anyone passionate about supporting recovery in their community. 

The concept to create a mural in the Emergency Department came from the 2022 Changemakers Retreat, led by the University of Minnesota Extension, in partnership with Itasca County Public Health. The retreat gathered Changemakers to brainstorm innovative resources and perspectives to help better impact their communities. In attendance, amongst many others, were Kelly Campbell, Grand Itasca Community Health Coordinator; Marian Barcus, Local NAMI Board President; and Lynn Cochran, Itasca County Public Health Social Worker and NAMI Board Vice-President. Together, the idea for a mural in the Emergency Department at Grand Itasca was born, and Barcus knew just who to ask to create the piece for the space.

The Artist

Eleanor Tillmans, a local artist who works primarily with fiber and clay, was ecstatic to be commissioned to be a part of this project as it holds a personal connection for her. Tillmans, who has endured mental health struggles of her own in the past, shared that creating the mural was an emotional experience for her. "When I found myself on the inside of a clinical setting, I needed help and was desperate to find anything to keep the room from spinning, and at the time, anxiety was not something that was discussed openly." When coming up with the concept for this piece, Tillmans paused to think of what she would have wanted to see and hear when she was in crisis. She hopes the mural brings a sense of calmness and lets the patient know that "you're going to be okay, and someday soon, you'll be looking out onto a beautiful view of a lake like this."

Eleanor Tillmans, the artist, poses in front of her mural.
Eleanor delivers a personal touch to the mural by adding two white Adirondack chairs for her and her friend Mari, who left us six years ago to suicide. She details more about this project and her personal journey with mental illness on her blog.

The Funding

This project was made possible by the generous support of NAMI, Changemakers (University of MN and Blandin Foundation grant to Itasca County), Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, and the Grand Itasca Foundation.