Creating unique, happy spaces
A group of tiny tots gathered beneath a tree, sat down and started singing devotion, no octet, synchronised chorus effects, or bass in play, but resonating purity of thought, raising their prayers to a divine level that filled the room.
A tree growing in a room, we might ponder ... yes, this one is a three-dimensional artwork created in the Jamaica Money Market Bank (JMMB) nursery at their head office in New Kingston.
"The children have been quite fascinated with the tree," said Gail Lyn-Shue, facilities officer and project coordinator for JMMB Nursery Project. "It has enhanced the learning experience as the children can touch the tree and other pieces of art."
This is a space transformed, with murals dotting the walls and some on the ceiling, paintings, and photographs, bringing life, perfectly complementing the pitter-patter of tiny feet and gibberish conversations.
For the creator of the space, Lisa Stiebel, who, as an architect, plans and designs, it is a labour of love.
"My passion is to create happy living spaces for children to interact with," she said. "So when I had my first child, I painted his crib and then a mural in his room to welcome him."
The tree is the focal point of this nursery, and like nature, there are expressions of colours splashed around the space, most dotted with words - 'Love, 'Peace', 'Joy', 'Believe' - all in a seamless flow. Words that reinforce positive values and messages which inspire and give a different dimension.
"In a world where we are constantly bombarded by social media and comparison, the opportunity to create unique, happy spaces with powerful words is where my focus is," Stiebel said.
The result is rooms that speak back to its occupants. Most important, the mundane monochrome walls evolve as pieces of art.
What is life without colours, their mysticism? The beauty of the dark clouds pelting rains lies in the effect it has on nature around us, popping in every conceivable hue.
"Colours have psychological effects on people - warm colours stimulate and cool colours relax. [They also have] spatial effects on a room - warm colours advance and cool colours recede," said Stiebel.
Taking a cue from nature, whose majesty, Stiebel said, is her greatest inspiration. So the themes are weaved from there, bringing the free spirit of the outdoor to the preconceived and confined man-made spaces.
"Look at the intricate design of shells, flowers, birds - even water molecules," said Stiebel. "Nature is my inspiration."
The journey of transforming spaces has endless possibilities - from schools, cafÈs and hospitals. The themes, according to Stiebel, speak for themselves.
"I go into the room and I am just still, allowing the walls to speak to me," she said.
One of this Barbados-born architect's most memorable projects was to redefine the paediatric ward of a hospital for children battling cancer, who are immunocompromised and confined to their rooms, which were grey.
"I painted it with powerful, life-giving words, such as 'Believe', 'Shine', 'Courage', 'Hope', 'Faith', and 'Love'," she said. "I have a particular passion to create spaces that speak life and hope into lives of those who share their experience."
Transformation, the law of nature, in the form of art is finding appreciation and acceptance in living and working spaces.
"What I have noticed is that many people have a fear of using colour on walls, and even underestimate the power of murals on the walls," Stiebel said. "It's just paint. If you don't like how it looks or feels, paint it over!"
There is more than painting over at the JMMB nursery. It's a metamorphosis, conforming to the financial institution's corporate culture of integrating art into its spaces.
"It (art) has allowed our children to be creative and to really enjoy the space in which they spend most of the day," Lyn-Shue said.
Spaces, it is said, provide that canvas which presents limitless possibilities, construed only by one's perception, or as Indian poet, Nobel laureate and painter Rabindranath Tagore said, "Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky."