“I was coming back from a trip with an arts organization in Jacmel, Haiti, when I first met Paul Farmer in the Miami airport,” says Laurel True, artist and owner of True Mosaic Studio. “A friend introduced us, and I showed him pictures of the project I was working on in Haiti. He suggested that I do something in Mirebalais. This is how the seeds were planted.”
Since that initial meeting, Laurel has dedicated much of her time to creating beautiful and lasting pieces of artwork at the Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital. Laurel and her team recently finished the installation of the welcome mural and the Partners In Health logo.
We sat down with Laurel as she explained her project and discussed her time at the hospital.
What was your inspiration for the mural’s design?
LT: I had several conversations with PIH staff about the content ideas. We wanted something that was colorful and had an overall good vibe. It had to be a design that everyone could relate to and access conceptually. The natural scene is a great way to hit all of this. I came up with a couple of versions and sent them around. The final design was the one we went with.
We’ve heard all the tile was donated. Can you tell us a little about that?
LT: Yes, most of the tile and supplies needed for the project was donated. About 80% of the tile came from Heath Ceramics. My company, True Mosaic Studio, donated the super bright colored tiles.
What was the process for installing the mural? How long did it take from the beginning plans to the end product?
LT: Well, it all began about a year ago with the initial fundraising and conceptual designs. Design development was all done in the US over a time period of about a few months. I then spent six weeks in Haiti completing the project. When I first arrived I gathered all the drawings together and taped them to wall. I then unpacked all the tile, spent a few days coding it and then put together a team. After the New Year we began setting the mosaic sections that we had set onto fiberglass mesh. It was intense work, but it went fast.
You worked with a team of Haitians to complete the mural. Were any already good tile workers? Did you have to do much training?
LT: Pretty intensive training had to be done. There were two Haitians that worked with me throughout the entire project and neither had any training. Some of my trainees from Jacmel came up, so I could train a larger class at once. We then added a mason and a tile setter to the team. For the most part it was ground up training. I really loved everyone that was on my team, as one member said to me, “I got to build beauty.”
Did you run into any problems while working in Haiti?
LT: I can’t believe that I’m going to say no, but I really had no problems. There were some small problems while doing the logo with the grout, but no major problems at all.
What is your favorite memory from working at the Mirebalais Hospital site?
LT: Honestly, the sense of camaraderie from everyone who helped of the project. The best moments for me were seeing people who worked on the project being so happy and proud of their work. One night we stayed up past dark to work on the logo, and we had to really work as a team to get it done.
What do you hope patients will take away from the mural?
LT: I really love that when you walk up to the entrance of the hospital you see this flash of color. I hope it gives everyone a positive, uplifting feeling. Having art in a healing space is a really important thing to help fortify people, and I hope that it continues to do that into the future.
PIH knows this beautiful mural will have a lasting effect on each patient that passes through the door of Mirebalais Hospital. We are very grateful to Laurel for her hard work and dedication. Laurel is now back at Mirebalais working on more projects in the Community Health outdoor waiting area.
Laurel True and PIH would like to thank everyone that generously donated to the mural project. Through the Facebook page, numerous donations ranging from $10 to $1,000.
To learn more about this and Laurel’s other project please visit the Mosaic Artwork Fund for Mirebalais Hospital Facebook page and Laurel’s website, www.truemosaics.com.