(Shannon Holms)

“It’s about humanity, emotion, connection and local heroes.”

When local artist Shannon Holms began painting portraits of the ICU/Covid Response team at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital last year, she could have never imagined what it would turn into. 

Starting in Abbotsford where her niece worked in the ICU, Holms set out to show her appreciation for health care workers through her art, reaching out to the team to see who may be interested in being painted.

Team members of the unit, although some hesitant at first, sent their photos to Holms, and she got to work painting their portraits. 

When Holms began sending photos of the completed portraits back to the team, more and more requests began flooding in.

“The Abbotsford healthcare workers said those portraits really buoyed their spirits,” Holms explained. 

“They said they were so happy to see them. Some of them cried when they saw their portraits for the first time.”

But Holms was not done showing her appreciation for everything healthcare workers have done and experienced over the COVID-19 pandemic just yet.

She contacted every health authority in the province and offered to paint portraits of the team members and provide them with images of them once completed.

A photo was provided as the original portraits were to be used in a later art gallery.

Soon, more photos and requests started rolling in from the Island Health Authority, Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

Not only was Holms doing what she loved, painting, she was also getting to hear the stories of the hardworking health care workers.

And it wasn’t just doctors and nurses, Holms wanted to reach out to all the healthcare workers to thank them for everything they have done over the course of the pandemic. This included dentists, chiropractors and acupuncturists in addition to the doctors and nurses working on the front lines.

After one year of painting, Holms had twenty portraits and twenty stories, half of them coming from healthcare workers in Victoria alone.

Each black and white portrait is accompanied by a story from each healthcare worker and includes a gold leaf symbolizing a specific attribute of each individual. 

“For example, long-term care nurse Leanne Robertson, has gold chrysanthemums painted on her shirt because that flower symbolizes longevity,” Holms explained. 

“And longevity is what the nurses at the Priory Retirement Home in Langford gave the seniors residing in this 300-bed facility, which suffered no COVID outbreaks, thanks to their outstanding care.”

The portraits and stories are now making their way to a downtown Victoria gallery, to be viewed by the public from February 15th to 20th. 

Visitors to the gallery will also be able to identify their own personal hero to be entered into a draw for their very own portrait painting by Holms.

Holms is not making a profit on these photos. They are not for sale. 

“They are my gift to the healthcare workers,” she says.

Courage and Compassion: B.C.’s Healthcare Heroes

  • Where: Gage Gallery, 19 Bastion Square
  • When: February 15th to 20th

👋 Subscribe to the Victoria Buzz newsletter to receive the latest news, events and more directly to your inbox. Every weekday.