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Year in Review: Pandemic forced Port Moody mom to get creative — in life and career

The Tri-City News is checking back in with some of the people whose stories we told earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic to see how they coped through a challenging year. Port Moody mom Ledawne Shelstad had her artistic side awakened.
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MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Ladawne Shelstad poses with one of her first "interactive" chalk murals she's created for garage doors in her Klahanie neighbourhood in Port Moody to help brighten spirit during the COVID-19 lockdown.

To cope with the tumult of the pandemic’s earliest weeks, Ladawne Shelstad picked up some chalk.

And she discovered humanity.

Shelstad and her daughter, Maddyn, were going through a difficult patch as they navigated the uncertainty of home schooling and job loss when they started drawing chalk rainbows on the pavement in their Port Moody townhouse complex to brighten their moods.

Then, they extended their efforts to chalking murals on neighbouring garage doors and the Port Moody Heart Market was born.

The colourful creations united the Klahanie community: Neighbours met neighbours for the first time, and many shared their own experiences dealing with the challenges of the public health crisis.

Protected from the weather by overhangs, Shelstad said many of the murals lasted much longer than she’d ever expected. But even as they faded or washed away, the sentiments of hope and joy they represented endure.

“This year, we all learned that we are ALL human,” Shelstad said. “Life had us all so busy before the world ‘took a breath’ and we forgot how to just be present and appreciate our resiliency as humans.”

Shelstad, who’s been doing more chalk murals for the Christmas season, said the pandemic’s effect on her own professional career as a project manager in the communications industry has caused her pause to take stock. She’s rented an art studio and reinvigorated her creative instincts that were first stoked by a few art courses she’d taken years ago.

Shelstad said her own personal reinvention goes much further than a change in career direction.

“What I realized I missed most was seeing people’s genuine smiles and expressions — and hugging one another,” she said. “I think we gained a newfound appreciation for connecting with friends and family that we won’t forget or ever take for granted anytime soon.”