Echoes of Grace

Commissioned by the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s to commemorate The Salvation Army Grace General Hospital, 1923–2000.

Five aluminum panels permanently installed in the Health Sciences Centre, St. John’s.
medium: digital inkjet printing (photographic image and text) on vinyl, laminated to ¼ inch thick aluminum panel, with a vertical red band painted behind each panel.
dimensions of each panel: 24 inches high x 36 inches wide x 1½ inches deep
(61 x 91 x 4 cm).

installed dimensions of each panel (area of red paint): 100 inches high x 50 inches wide (254 x 127 cm).
collection: Health Care Corporation of St. John’s.

What you see in these 5 panels are photographs of the Salvation Army Grace General Hospital and the nurses’ residence, from several different angles. I took the photographs just after the Grace Hospital closed in the year 2000. Overlaid on the photographs are two different sets of text, separated into the left side and the right side on each panel. The two sides are meant to show the different kinds of history that a place can have — there’s the official history and then there are the personal stories. And of course, they intersect. This is one of my abiding interests as an artist — the flexible, elusive, and constantly changing layers of meaning in places.

All the panels are hung on a scarlet red background, which is the colour for the Salvation Army.

On the left hand side of each panel are bits of different printed text I found in 3 main sources:
  • first, I researched the Grace archives and annual reports going back several decades;
  • second, I explored around inside the building, and I used some of the printed signs and messages I found posted up on walls and taped inside cupboards;
  • third, and perhaps the most telling of all in conveying what these panels commemorate—when I was in the building, just after it closed, I found graffiti written on the walls by the staff during the last days they worked there. These messages echo the staff’s own heartfelt feelings about the Grace, and I’ve brought some of these messages forward by transcribing them onto these panels. Otherwise, not many people would have ever seen them.
For example, here’s the message I found written across the wall in the room called the “Father’s Lounge” outside Labour & Delivery. It was signed by the nurses of the neonatal intensive care unit, and it’s on the third panel:
“God bless all those who anxiously waited here for the birth of sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. May the echoes of your joy and laughter resound here forever within these walls.”

Marlene Creates, 2002