(All photos credit: RAEF.ca supplied by BC Children’s Hospital Foundation)
“There’s a lot for kids to look at and find in the murals, from tiny eggs to cute rabbits,” says Katherine Lidstone, a clinical nursing instructor at BC Children’s. “It helps reduce the level of fear and take their mind off things, like walking into an operating room. Nurses use the murals as they walk down the halls and they say things like, ‘Look for the river. We’re going to follow it to our room. Let’s paddle in our canoe to get there.’”
The artwork is part of the Children’s Healing Experience Project, a BC Children’s Hospital Foundation donor-funded curated exhibit of original paintings, murals, interactive installations, playrooms, outdoor gardens and sculptures. More than 60 Canadian artists contributed their expertise and passion to the project.
"When I was a child I needed an MRI. I distinctly remember looking at a colourful mural on the wall of the examining room. I remember how interested I was in the artwork and how it relieved my anxiety about taking the test," says artist Ralitza Karr.
BC Children’s Head of Psychology Elizabeth Stanford says research shows using a variety of artists and natural scenery is helpful for healing.
“Every corner patients turn shows them they are in a special place,” says Stanford. “The art plays a role in that. It's obvious that someone thought about carefully about what it would be like to be here at the hospital and what might make patients and families feel comfortable.”
Kids had the final say on the artwork and gave feedback, asking for scenes that reminded them of home. Many of the murals reflect the natural beauty and diversity of B.C.
“It makes a clinical space more welcoming,” says Stanford. “The murals offer an opportunity to build rapport that can be very fun. Children and doctors or nurses can play “I Spy” or make up stories to go along with the pictures.”
"My aim with each piece is to inspire children to see the world around them as a magical place, one that is both colourful and bright, and to give them the sense that all things are possible," says artist Anne Marie Wilkinson.
Employees at BC Children’s also appreciate the artwork.
“It adds satisfaction to your day,” says Lidstone. “My favourite mural is a dark one of the night sky, the constellations, whales and a narwhal. It just makes me happy. The murals help kids remember what could be the scariest day of their life as a positive experience – and that is amazing.”