Young people help design art elements in new hospitals

A group of children and young people put their best ideas forward at craft workshops held to brainstorm future arts, play and discovery elements at our new hospital buildings. 

Patients like Oscar understand the true benefit of art and play in hospitals. Exploring the hanging artwork became a ritual for Oscar and his mum Alison during his admission in 2018.  

The seven-year-old has a congenital heart condition and has been treated at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) since he was a baby.  

"When Oscar was up to it, we would walk around the hospital. We loved walking and looking at all the artworks, and we would make a little route to walk around each day," said Oscar's mum, Alison.

If you are in hospital for a long stay, it's just that variety – having a choice of where to visit and having meaningful spaces to create positive memories alongside a really hard time," said Oscar's mum, Alison.

SCHN is delivering two new hospital buildings as part of The Children's Hospital at Westmead Stage 2 and Sydney Children's Hospital Stage 1 and Minderoo Children's Comprehensive Cancer Centre projects and with the support of consultant City People, both new buildings will have unique arts, play and discovery components to engage and inspire visitors. The concept incorporates physical, sensory and emotional elements that impact how children and young people interact, learn and entertain themselves.  

If every step in this journey can be filtered through a playful lens, there is the opportunity to inject moments of curiosity, creativity and lifelong learning into an experience that can often be pretty stressful," said City People Director, Michael Cohen. 

"This is not just for children and young people; it is for families and staff too. When imaginatively curated, comprehensively planned and implemented, these elements can have a lasting positive health impact on clinical processes and models of care."  

Extensive community and stakeholder engagement has taken place to facilitate the collaborative design of the hospitals' art elements, including consultation with children and young people through special committee meetings, workshops and interviews.  

Four sessions were conducted with children, redevelopment team representatives, staff and Aboriginal community members at both hospitals, with hands-on art workshops held with current and former patients. The sessions were documented by the young people, who acted as news reporters.  

My favourite part was working with the adults to make concepts and come up with ideas for the future hospital," said one of the participants, 12-year-old Isla Ren.

"I want it to be fun for the kids and young people. Some people are there for a long time, so I don’t want it to be boring or scary. It should be somewhere that they can play,” added Isla Ren. 

Several themes emerged from the workshops, highlighting that children are particularly interested in learning about biology, taking inspiration from nature and exploring digital platforms and social connections.  

A curatorial plan has been developed from the consultation and workshops. The work will be used to finalise arts, play and discovery elements at both hospitals and to select artists to carry out the work.  

Go here to read a fact sheet on the program and click on the videos below to watch the workshops through the eyes of the 'Kids Reporters’.

WATCH: Sydney Children's Hospitals Network summary

WATCH: The Children's Hospital at Westmead workshops

WATCH: Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick workshops