A Denver Art Firm Gets Creative for Hospitalized Children

Kids at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin got an early Christmas present last year, but it wasn’t delivered by Santa.Instead, athenahealth partnered with Denver’s The Art Connection and New Angle Consulting and built colorful and interactive installations in the hospital’s Healing Garden. Stations with names such as Butterfly Migration, Drum Session, and Regatta were created right on hospital grounds for patients and their siblings to enjoy. (Siblings are not allowed in the hospital to protect against infection.) Inside, young patients were given creativity kits and superhero capes lovingly made by athenahealth volunteers. Designed to inspire creative expression and peaceful meditation, these changes are just the latest example of the trend toward using art for health and healing.

“This is just wonderful. These installations are the most creative gift the hospital could have received", said Gail Gorman, the Volunteer Coordinator at Dell Children’s Medical Center.  "What an amazing, delightful addition to the Healing Garden. And inside, our sad, dark patient transport hallways now have a bright and cheerful mural.”

Dell Children’s Medical Center is not the first to incorporate art to promote healing. Boston Children’s Hospital introduced its Creative Arts Program in 2009 which utilizes the arts as a positive resource during hospital stays and incorporates music for therapeutic intervention. According to their website, a recent evaluation of this program yielded positive findings: 75 percent of parents surveyed reported their child had reduced anxiety and 71 percent of patients surveyed reported less perceived pain.

These findings were no surprise to Birgit Whitelaw and Renata Dolz, two artists (and mothers) who founded The Art Connection in Denver, CO. Igniting children’s creative expression was at the heart of their Healing Garden proposal. “We first identified the elements we felt would inspire creativity and imagination in children—musical instruments, animals, water, butterflies,” Birgit recalls. "Then we set out to develop the individual Healing Garden concepts. New Angle Consulting and athenahealth were open to our ideas.”

Those ideas included the Butterfly Migration – a grassy area where 30 brightly painted steel butterflies appear to land and take flight; the Drum Session – a series of bongo-style drums in a variety of shapes and sounds; Regatta – colorful sailboats ready to sail down a little stream; and Birdhood – a showcase of beautifully decorated wooden birdhouses, each filled with information cards about a particular native Texas bird, ready for children to collect.

The installations were completed in just 5 hours by the hands of over 250 athenahealth volunteers on December 9, 2015. “It was quite a collaboration and coordinated effort,” says Renata Dolz, “but the smiles on those children’s faces said it all!” That afternoon, one five-year-old patient, recuperating from a major brain surgery, took one of the sail boats for its maiden voyage down the hospital’s little stream.

About The Art Connection

The Art Connection is a privately held Denver, Colorado, firm specializing in creating team building events for their clients utilizing creative thinking and artful methods of engagement. They approach corporate team building by connecting art to specific business goals or core values and then customizing a program focused on those goals. In many cases, the culmination of a project results in collaborative, one-of-a-kind masterpieces that grace the halls of the company’s offices. For information on how The Art Connection can help your business, please visit www.connectwithart.net.