When officials were planning the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, which opened its doors Feb. 19, they wanted to make it a place that would be warm and welcoming to the children who would come there for treatment. So they turned to other kids.
The result: 30 drawings by children in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and 30 more by children in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood that were transferred to ceramic tiles and installed in the bathrooms of the children’s rooms.
Hospital officials “wanted bright, happy artwork to uplift the spirits of the kids who would be staying in the rooms,” says Eliza Duenow, director of education for the Hyde Park Art Center and coordinator of the Comer art project.
Says Mary Beth Williams, director of pediatric program planning for the hospital, “We thought it was important to use the new hospital as a bridge to the broader community, in particular for kids in the Chicagoland community to feel like it was their hospital—in essence to put their fingerprints on the hospital.” To do that, the hospital contracted with the Hyde Park Art Center and Yollocalli Youth Museum, the children’s wing of the Mexican Fine Arts Museum, to create the tiles.
The art is inspired by the poems of the late great Shel Silverstein because, Williams says, “Poetry is the universal language of emotions and, when you’re in a hospital, a variety of emotions come into play.”
The young artists were given a tough assignment: Create art that would serve as a source of strength to children of any age who might occupy the room next week, but be timeless enough to comfort children 20 years from now.
The artists, including the sixth graders from Ray Elementary School whose tiles are pictured here, created 250 different images. Of those, 60 were chosen to be digitally transferred to the tiles and installed in the bathrooms.
“One of the things I wanted was, like when you put in a cornerstone, to have a permanent reflection of the kids in the building,” Williams says. “What I said to the kids ... is that there are very few artists in the world who get this kind of a permanent installation.” Cindy Richards