It was not the typical location for an art gallery, but Campbell River Hospital pulled out all the stops Sunday as it debuted its Art in the Hospital Initiative with a public reception and tour.
The unique initiative came together in recent months through the joint efforts of hospital staff, the Campbell River Arts Council and several different community groups and volunteers. Campbell River Seniors Society president Helen Whitaker, an Alberta transplant who had helped establish an arts program and gallery at a hospital in Edmonton, brought up the idea with local artist Jill Paris Rody while taking a class from Rody.
Meanwhile, Dr. Caitlin McFadden had contacted Ken Blackburn of the Arts Council on behalf of hospital staff and patients — including her mother.
“I’ve worked in hospitals for 30 years, and never noticed how dismal it was until my own mother was brought in as a patient,” said McFadden. “I started phoning any artist I knew, but it was like herding cats until someone put me in touch with Ken.”
When Rody put Whitaker in touch with Blackburn to share her suggestion for an “art path” in those same corridors, he realized he had stumbled onto a “serendipitous” opportunity, as he said in his welcome remarks at Sunday’s reception.
“The idea was generated by night staff here,” said Blackburn. “They have to take patients on walks but they have nowhere to go. So why not have stations (of art) that they could take patients to see?”
The art itself is an eclectic mix, ranging from pieces by professionals like Paris Rody and Curtis Wilson to fingerpainting from Kwanwatsi pre-schoolers. Artists include students at Carihi and head injury patients in a special class taught by Paris Rody. The pieces are comprised of basic paintings or watercolours matted and framed to hang on the walls, full-coverage door murals by Paris Rody, and large, hanging aboriginal banners draped by Wilson in a stairwell window.
“Some of it is in very public areas, and some is in patient areas,” said Blackburn. “The art walk is trying to service not only patients in the hospital, but also staff and visitors. So those three considerations were all in mind with this path.”
The works will remain for six months, then be replaced by new art.
Other partners in the art path include Ripple Rock Elementary, Family Services, hospital staff and, in a key role, the Campbell River Hospital Auxiliary.
“Once we had the artists, we needed money,” said McFadden. “And the auxiliary stepped up wonderfully.”
Members of the auxiliary hosted Sunday’s small-group tours and provided a large cake that was served with coffee and tea following the walk. McFadden and the others knew the project was a success well before Sunday’s reception and tour, though, when she was pulled aside by a staffer shortly after the works went up.
“’So this is what you were talking about,’ she told me,” said McFadden. “’This is the best thing that’s happened here.’”
Members of the hospital auxiliary and guests pass through one of the sets of painted doors during the Art Path tour at Campbell River Hospital Sunday. J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror