The Art of Healing

BC Children’s Hospital Foundation Undertakes Ambitious Art Call for New Hospital

March 25, 2016 - Vancouver, BC – Artists across Canada are being challenged to make their mark on what could be the largest hospital art project of its kind in the country’s history.

It’s all part of an effort to make the new eight-storey Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s Hospital the brightest space in North America for sick kids. The hospital wants to help take the worry out of visits for young patients. Recent research suggests that purposeful art in hospitals helps to reduce anxiety in sick children by an astonishing 75 per cent.

That’s where Canada’s greatest talents come in.

This call goes out to sculptors, painters, photographers and graphic artists to help create 400 unique pieces of artwork that will be part of 60,000 square feet of available space in the new hospital before the structure is complete in late 2017.

Artists are invited to submit their interest by early May to BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, the organization behind this initiative.  To apply artists should visit for details.

This art project is one of the most ambitious ever undertaken by a children’s hospital in Canada, and partly modelled on leading children’s hospital healing arts programs in Chicago, Boston and San Diego. The aim is to enrich the healing environment for patients ranging in age from newborn to 17.

BC Children’s Hospital Foundation is working with project consultant Annette Ridenour – a North American expert who has been developing healing arts programs for 30 years. She says that a purposeful healing environment can reduce the need for sedation, shorten hospital stays and improve psychological and physical functioning.

The program will create inspirational healing experiences that engage and comfort children, youth, family and staff, and will support health outcomes by integrating curated, purposeful art.

This project is unique because it includes direct input from clinical teams, patients and families. The art will be used not just in public spaces but also extensively throughout clinical areas. 

The initiative has been created by a special committee, including patient families, medical staff and senior-level volunteers. The committee, which developed the mission of this project, wants artists to apply from coast to coast, though there will be a special emphasis on artists from British Columbia and Yukon.  

The committee will review submissions and gather feedback on submitted art from hospital patients and their siblings. 

Artists can apply online, and are being asked to provide a portfolio of their work. Once they have been selected they will be contracted to design work for specific areas of the new hospital.

Vancouver artist Tiko Kerr, whose work is displayed in the existing BC Children’s Hospital, says the power of art can calm anxiety, contribute to a child’s confidence and help strengthen motor skills.

“Children are born creators. Providing them with such a momentous program as the Children’s Healing Experience Project is guaranteed to have incredible, far-reaching benefits,” says Kerr. “It can activate surprise, hope and opportunities to see greater possibilities.”

Work on the new hospital began last fall after a massive $200-million fundraising campaign by BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. The Teck Acute Care Centre is almost completely framed in, and it’s expected that the art installations will begin late next summer.

Artwork in public areas will provide landmarks for patients and their families to easily find their way around the hospital. Some will go in the gardens on the ground level and on the roof gardens; there will also be small interactive sculptures in waiting spaces.

Inspiration for the project comes in part from patients like 16-year-old Crystal Nguyen, who was in the hospital for several years for cancer treatment. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 11, Crystal went through three rounds of chemotherapy before she was then diagnosed with sepsis, a serious condition threatening her organs and caused her to fall into a month-long coma.

Finally she had to undergo a bone marrow transplant, which forced her into long-term isolation in the hospital to protect her immune system. “The walls were white, but it was a kind of ugly white because of where I was and what I had to do,” she says.

Today, Crystal is free of cancer. She wholeheartedly supports the art initiative because she knows it will brighten the recovery of many other patients facing similar long-term stays in the hospital.

Several major provincial-based organizations with an expertise in engaging children, including the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, Royal BC Museum and H.R. MacMillian Space Centre, have already stepped up with offers of help.

The artwork must provide messages of hope and healing for patients, visitors and staff. It will include two- and three-dimensional artwork, oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings, limited-edition prints, giclee prints, mixed media art, glass, mosaics, sculpture, fabric art, collages, illustrations and photographs.

All artwork must meet the hospital’s infection controls and safety standards. For example, the surfaces may have to be specially treated so that they can regularly be washed to avoid germs. Some work will be enclosed in glass cases.

BC Children’s Hospital is the province’s only full-service, pediatric acute care hospital and is accessible to the close to one million children living in BC and the Yukon. All children who are seriously ill or injured are referred to the hospital and are either treated at the hospital here in Vancouver or in consultation with BC Children’s specialists, in their home community. Last year there were over 234,000 patient visits.

The Teck Acute Care Centre will be the new heart of BC Children’s Hospital. The new building is a 640,000-square-foot facility that houses the emergency department, medical imaging, the pediatric intensive care unit, procedure suites, the oncology program and all inpatient areas.


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