Artwork honours hospital heroes

The vibrant murals of real and imagined characters provide a bold distraction for patients facing the unknown in a clinical setting. 

A possum kicking a football, a lizard holding balloons and a group of acrobatic pies are among the personalities that come to life in new environmental graphics - installed across nearly 100 different surfaces at 22 locations as part of The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW), in Block K.

But, outside the Children's Short Stay Unit, operating theatres, medical imaging and assessment rooms, the murals carry a deeper meaning.

In a project believed to be an Australian first, the artwork serves as a colourful recognition for donors who have made significant contributions to the CHW capital fundraising target of $35 million. Donors so far include the Wiggs Family Foundation, Minton Family Foundation, Sargents Pies Charitable Foundation, The James Fairfax Foundation, Supagas, Bennelong Australian Equity Partners and ACCO.

Sparked by the Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation (SCHF) capital campaign launch in 2020, the graphics are the most significant donor recognition project the hospital has ever undertaken.

After the NSW State Government committed $1.3 billion to redevelop the CHW and the Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, the SCHF committed a further $60 million to the project.

This commitment is critical in taking the redevelopment project to the next level and will enable even greater investment in technology, research and services to offer the best possible care for sick children.

Behind the artwork

One of the murals, recognising the Wiggs family, adorns the waiting area of the Children's Short Stay Unit. A rainbow sweeps across one of the double doors; around it, native Australian animals and make-believe characters wander across a dusty, pink, blue landscape.

Patient Rhyder points out her favourite character - a koala clutching a eucalyptus branch. In May, the seven-year-old spent two days in the unit after being admitted with a stomach ache and a sore throat.

It gives (the hospital) more colour and makes it more kid-friendly than just plain walls," her mum Crystal said of the new mural.

Describing her daughter's time in hospital as "incredibly stressful", Crystal said the bright artworks make it "easier for the kids to walk into a (hospital) that's not so formal and is more relaxing."

The hospital's graphic design team created each character - down to colour schemes, props, and facial expressions - and consulted extensively with department heads to ensure the designs were functional. Surry Hills-based agency 'Holy Cow! Creative' helped develop the artwork's overall concept

The designs are all different, with cute little characters and native animals to find,” graphic designer Paden Hunter explained.

“Some have fun facts and words to learn, and they all have fun sophisticated colours and patterns inspired by the local environment.”

Mr Hunter said he felt "energised" to work on the project, adding, "It is a really important thing to brighten up someone's day, make them smile, and make them feel at home."

Therapeutic value

Different ways to enhance our hospitals are continually being explored and researched by the Child Life and Music Therapy Department.

Child Life therapist Wendy Le said murals and colourful designs could impact a child’s perception of hospitalisation by promoting a comforting, friendly and welcoming space.

The murals and designs may help lower stress levels and provide a positive refocus in the clinical environment," Child Life therapist Wendy Le said.

"They can be used for therapeutic purposes such as encouraging relaxation, meditation and mindfulness as patients are reminded of being in a calm place."

"Murals (are also) a valuable resource to engage children with coping strategies and can provide a positive and interactive focus during medical procedures," said Ms Le.

The tremendous input of the donors honoured will help deliver brand new, state-of-the-art paediatric health, medical research and education facilities as part of the hospital redevelopment.

How can I help?

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