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Creative Corner: Local nurse brings light to dark times

Boulder County Public Health nurse visualized COVID through art

Being in relationship with each other and to the community is at the heart of what Laura Weiss and her peers and colleagues do. 

Weiss, who has lived in Boulder for 45 years, is a public health RN serving Boulder County Public Health, a position she took on in February. Prior to that role, she taught community health in the nursing department at Regis University in Denver. Before teaching, she worked as a hospice nurse at the Hospice of Boulder County, a facility she helped open in 1976 (at that time called Boulder Hospice). 

She said, "I get back as much as I give. It's all about building relationships with each other."

These relationships, and the complementary work of community health and artistic endeavors, are what inspired her recent foray into the visual arts.

"Though I consider myself a creative person —– my daughter, Sarah Poppitz and I founded the Buddhist Arts and Film Festival —– this kind of art is fairly new," Weiss said.

Weiss had an installation at a kiosk on the Pearl Street mall last August. She was looking for a way to visualize all the lives lost to COVID-19.

"I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the number of lives lost," she said. "When we hit 200,000, I wanted a physical representation so it could clearly mark that this was more than a statistic."

She used small flags, each one representing 10 people, and wrapped them around the kiosk with memorial messages attached.

Now, Weiss has been inspired by acts of kindness from all members of the Boulder County community. There's one group in particular that she wants to recognize with her most recent piece — those who have contributed to the vaccination roll-out, especially the nurses who gave the shorts.

Using 271 discarded vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (each vial contains 10 doses before it's administered) and a base she found on Ebay for $20, she created a chandelier. She thought the image of the vials was significant and wanted light to brighten a very dark year.

"I had no idea what this was going to be," Weiss said. "I knew I wanted it to be beautiful and have light and somehow portray a message of gratitude."

To Weiss, the arts are powerful ways to express things that are more difficult to express with speech.

"Throughout this pandemic, many of us have wondered, 'What can I do?' and for me, public health and art, which complement each other, are what I can do and I'm happy to do them."