Utah artist unveils artwork honoring healthcare workers

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. — Intermountain Healthcare and Utah artist Heather Olsen unveiled a painting representing and honoring all caregivers for their commitment, sacrifice, and dedication to saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The large painting, titled “Together We Can Do This,” features a group of nurses, doctors, a respiratory therapist, and clinical and non-clinical workers coming together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The painting highlights both the successes and struggles faced by frontline caregivers during the past year when hospital ICU volumes were above capacity levels.

In the early days of the pandemic, Olsen said she wanted to pay tribute to the nurses and frontline workers who were risking their lives to save others.

“I was really moved by their sacrifice, especially the nurses and doctors who went to help in New York last spring,” she said. “With all the fear and unknowns early in the pandemic. It was a scary time for everyone. As an artist, I remember thinking, ‘What can I do?’ Then the thought came to me to paint the nurses and healthcare workers. I wanted to honor them.”

The first painting Olsen created that connected to the pandemic was of a nurse putting on her gloves. Olsen says she thought about what it might be like preparing for a shift. Eventually, she did a few other paintings of nurses working in different settings. “I tried to put myself in her shoes and imagine the emotions,” Olsen added.

Caregivers across the state were touched by Olsen’s depiction of their effort and struggles and wanted prints of the paintings. Soon after, Olsen collaborated with Intermountain on the larger painting.

“The idea was to show how we are all in this together and to convey hope that we can get through it,” Olsen said.

Olsen says she immediately had a concept for the painting when she started to sketch it, even though she didn’t have a reference for everything.

“This is going to get a little spiritual, but I felt like I had help on this painting because it’s really big and a multi-figure piece that normally would require redrawing,” she said. “This worked out better than I ever anticipated.”

“When I look at it, first I think of the fear we all went through initially, the hardship of COVID, and everything shutting down,” she added. “The entire year is wrapped into this concept with the vaccine at the bottom, which has hope for me. The message really is we can handle this, we can do this. When I look at it, I see hope.”

“I hope when you see the painting, you’re reminded of what we’ve been through, both the good and the bad. It’s not going to last forever, but maybe, hopefully, the world will be a better place. My heart goes out to all of the caregivers,” Olsen said.

Prints of this painting will be distributed to Intermountain’s hospitals and facilities over the next few weeks. Caregivers will also have an opportunity to get personal prints of the painting.

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