Associate Spotlight: Marilyn in the Mural

Public art with a message honors Adelaide associates, others

Woman posing for picture outdoors

The mural’s vibrant colors radiate off the brick building at the corner of Blue Hill and Fairview Avenues in Mattapan. Its beauty captivates those fortunate to pass by each day, while its purpose should inspire all.

Commissioned by ChaseBank, the mural honors the Haitians and Jamaicans who live and work in Boston. Area business owners and residents are depicted peering out of a colorful public bus or a “tap tap,” as they are called in Haiti (passengers tap the ceiling to indicate their stop to the driver.)

Among the passengers in the mural is a likeness of Adelaide of Newton Center associate Marilyn Tullis. She has a prominent seat on the bus, but then again, she does know the artist.

Marilyn, a native of Haiti, is a caregiver for Heidi Schork’s mother, the Boston-based artist who brought the mural to life.

“Marilyn feeds my mother, she changes her, she bathes her, she tucks her in, she combs her hair — everything,” Heidi says, recently told The Boston Globe. “I’m so grateful, the only thing I could do was make her a heroic size on the wall.”

For the better part of three decades, Heidi and her assistants have guided high school students to paint beautiful murals in and around Boston. It is all part of a summer jobs program sponsored by the Boston Parks & Recreation Department.

“Public art can change a landscape,” said Heidi. “These murals tell stories and engage people in a different way than more formal art, like monuments and statues.”

Mural on building wallThe story behind this mural is one of caring and empathy. Three weeks in the making, it depicts a public bus splashed in a wide array of bright colors. Think, a traveling quilt just waiting to wrap itself around someone.

Heidi gave the folks at ChaseBank three ideas. The bus won them over. From there it was about size, scope and detail. At 30 feet high and 65 feet long, this represented a complicated project for Heidi and her team.

There, among the vivid images on the bus is Marilyn, the 46-year-old resident care associate at Adelaide. A mother of three from Waltham, Marilyn began caring for her sick grandmother as a young girl in her native Haiti. She also helped raise her younger siblings. Now, she cares for Schork’s mother, Jeanne, among others.

Heidi said using real people made the project all the more meaningful, especially when it came to Marilyn.

“She tries to communicate with (my mom) in a kind and gentle way. She has an intuitive ability to know what is going on. That’s what I see in Marilyn,” Heidi explained.

Susan Cohen Cwieka, executive director at Adelaide, sees those same qualities.

“Marilyn has a special way of connecting with our residents,” says Susan. “She does a wonderful job of taking the time to understand what the resident wants and their interests, while also taking the time to explain our services and how we can help them.”

For her part, Marilyn is not an attention seeker. She speaks of her work as a blessing.

“I love my job and the residents,” she says. “I love taking care of both children and adults. I always try to make them happy and have fun.”

About Adelaide of Newton Centre

The Benchmark Senior Living Mind & Memory Care community bridges the art of meaningful relationships with the science of high-quality care and therapeutic experiences. Through some of the latest research, technologies and programs, Adelaide’s residents participate in stimulating and engaging social interactions. A caring team of skilled, empathic memory specialists serve as care partners to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia and guides to their loved ones.

Artistic mural on bus

Adelaide of Newton Centre