'You can't thank them enough': New mural in SJ shares support for healthcare workers battling COVID-19

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
New mural in SJ shows support for healthcare workers
In the South Bay, a local artist is using her talent to reach those confronting COVID-19, daily.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, a local artist is using her talent to reach those confronting COVID-19, daily.

A message of gratitude to medical workers is spelled out in a new mural near San Carlos and 11th streets in Downtown San Jose.

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New shelter-in-place restrictions may make it difficult for the public to catch the art piece, but ABC7 News connected with the artist to bring viewers a closer look.

"I weighed going out of the house," artist, Denise Olenak admitted to ABC7 News. "It's not exactly what somebody would consider 'essential.'"

However, Olenak said she decided the mural was essential- necessary to show medical workers they are supported.

"Healthcare workers are really doing the dirty work for all of us," Olenak added. "And all we have to do is stay home... That's the easy part!"

A painting contractor by trade, Olenak teamed up with her best friend Alex Alvarado.

"Originally it was going to be 'Keep calm and carry on... (but 6-feet apart),'" she explained. "But we decided that we just wanted something more hopeful, more heartfelt."

The finished mural features Dr. Fauci and a quote from Winston Churchill: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."

"I think that's a lot to what the quote speaks to," Alex Alvarado said. "Is how much gratitude we hold for people who are working directly on the front lines, or with COVID-19."

Alvarado considers herself the Artistic Director of the pair.

"I decided the layout, the width and span of the letters," she shared. "I helped with the colors, and then I also made sure that everything was spelled accurately."

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Referring to medical workers, passerby, Christopher Rodriguez said, "I don't think you can thank them enough."

The art attracted many passing by. Including Rodriguez, who said it's a message we can all get behind.

As he snapped pictures, he noticed there was no credit to the artist.

Olenak said she didn't sign the mural because this was never about her.

"That's deep, because you know she don't want credit for it," Rodriguez said. "Just like the doctors and nurses- they don't want credit for it- but they're still doing it for the people."

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Soon, Alvarado will join others on the front line. She graduated from Emory University's School of Nursing in December and passed the test for her nursing license just two weeks ago.

Alvarado has also answered Governor Gavin Newsom's call for health professionals to join the new Health Corps.

"Nobody ever thinks that you're going to graduate nursing school and then a pandemic is going to ensue," she said. "That is not at all what any of us had planned. If you'd told me that this is what was going to happen four months ago, I would not have believed you."

For now, the pair's mural is a small show of support for those making a world of difference.

On Monday, Olenak learned even that message couldn't keep vandals away.

She spent Tuesday morning painting over a tag.

"I'll keep fixing it," she said. "All I have is paint and time."

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