Students Art to be Part of Renovated Pediatric Care Space at Children s Hospital

University of Cincinnati students recently created art that will play a part in how people will use a space dedicated to pediatric intensive care for airway reconstruction at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Fifteen fine arts students from UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) worked throughout spring semester to create a collection of 11 paintings titled “A Breath of Fresh Air,” works of art specifically designed to meet needs within the waiting area, family lounge and consultation room of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)/Complex Airway Unit. Partnering with UC and Cincinnati Children’s on the project is branded environments firm, Kolar Design, who created the vision for the artwork and the renovation of the space.

UC student Samantha Dorgan, 27, of West Chester, Ohio, described the students’ arts role as integrating both art and design in that “we paid attention to the users’ needs in the spaces and watched videos of how people interacted with the space and one another. We also interviewed long-term staff in the unit as well as families who had transitioned out of using the space. Thus, the kids who use the space, their parents and the medical workers were in the forefront of our minds always as we worked.”

Leading the students in the project was Ryan Mulligan, assistant professor of fine arts, who explained that the UC-created, nature-oriented paintings were designed to not only fit with art already in the space to be renovated but to provide opportunities for meditation and interaction by users of the space.

He said, “We found that parents use the art in the space to play games like ‘I Spy’ and ‘name that item.’ To that end, we created dense works with lots of layers and imagery portraying aquatic environments, kites, hot-air balloons and more. Though multi-colored, the smooth color palette chosen should aid as an anxiety and stress reducer.”

The collaborative partnerships and the intended use of the art in a specific space for children in need of medical care as well as their family members, all experiencing a difficult situation, added urgency to the class and its resulting works, according to Mulligan.

Erik Martin, Cincinnati Children’s PICU clinical director, agreed, stating, “Being the parent or loved one of a hospitalized child can be physically and emotionally draining. So, having avenues to escape from the stress and free one’s mind can help caretakers be more resilient during a difficult time in their lives. Art work is one way in which friends and families of sick children can take a moment away for themselves for respite and peace of mind.”

The mother of one patient, Tania Erdmann, added, “Art as seen through the eyes of those in crisis is more vibrant and alive than others experience. Parents and children in crisis experience extreme rushes of adrenaline, heightening all their senses, notably vision. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are taking in the sights around us at an intense pace, ingraining those images for a lifetime. Even during ‘down time,’ having a visual item that brings comfort is healing. It’s a reminder of brighter days and calmer waters ahead.”

The art works should be in place in the renovated space later this summer.