Picturing Diversity

By Genevieve Long

Mural Visitors to the OHSU School of Nursing’s Portland campus see plenty of art commemorating the school’s long history. In September, the school unveiled a new mural reflecting its vision of the future. Prominently placed in the first-floor lobby, the piece by artist Robin Corbo depicts the cultural, geographic and professional diversity of nursing in Oregon.

Art reflecting people

“Be a great organization, diverse in people and ideas,” is the first goal of Vision 2020, the university’s roadmap to the future. OHSU’s Diversity Wall, which features photographs and text on the school’s history of diversity, sparked the idea for a School of Nursing installation.

“We wanted to represent how we see nursing today and how it’s changing for the future,” says Jennifer Anderson, M.P.A., Ed.D., School of Nursing assistant dean for admissions and recruitment. “Research shows that visible representations of diversity help students and faculty members feel at home in higher education.”

Coming together for diversity

Anderson and School of Nursing leaders developed the mural with OHSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which provided essential support. After discussing the concept with diversity center director Leslie Garcia, M.P.A., Anderson formed a School of Nursing art committee and worked with faculty and staff on ideas.

OHSU’s Marquam Hill Art Committee helped the school find artist Robin Corbo(right), a noted muralist. Corbo, whose background includes social work and art Robin Corbotherapy, held a brown-bag session with 15 members of the School of Nursing community to discover their vision of diversity.

“The group wanted the mural to be very welcoming,” Corbo says. “It was important to represent professional diversity as well as racial, ethnic and geographic diversity. It was also crucial to show a modern view of nursing, avoiding stereotypes.”

A bold reflection

The new mural greets all who enter the Portland campus building. “We created it to showcase everyone’s contributions, and we want every member of our community to see themselves and feel wanted,” says Garcia.

In addition to celebrating student and faculty diversity, the mural aims to remind students of the communities they serve. “We want to instill the value of inclusiveness in our students as they prepare to practice in changing communities,” Anderson says.

Inviting interpretation and conversation

Parts of the mural are straightforward, while others invite personal interpretation. The farm, forest and skyscrapers represent the School of Nursing’s statewide campuses and OHSU’s commitment to serve all 96,000 square miles of Oregon.

Corbo says the mural’s work has just begun. “This painting was not complete when I added the final brush strokes,” she says. “It will be completed as the audience participates in viewing, thinking and talking about it—and by what grows out of those conversations.”

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