I felt so honoured and excited to be asked to paint a mural for the new emergency department at Hollywood Private Hospital. I knew it deserved to be something really special because it needed to provide some comfort, hope or even just a little escape to people who might be feeling stressed and vulnerable.
Art in hospitals is so important. I knew this so well because over a decade ago, while working as a landscape architect at the Fremantle firm UDLA, I had the privilege of designing the courtyards and landscaping for Joondalup Private Hospital. We did extensive research on the needs of hospital patients. Some research has shown that good design and the right kind of art can help calm stressed patients, and even increase well-being, pain tolerance and the rate of recovery (3).
In a 2010 study Langston et al. found that “ …patients frequently express a preference for landscape and nature scenes … patients who are ill or stressed about their health may not always be comforted by abstract art, preferring the positive distraction and state of calm created by the blues and greens of landscape and nature scenes instead.” They observed that thanks to our evolution, flourishing natural environments most predictably create positive emotional responses in us. (1)
I designed this mural to help open up the space, to bring a sense of calm, peace and freedom, to carry the viewer to another place less stressful than what might have brought them to the hospital.
To create a community connection for the project, I had to opportunity to hold two workshops with a fabulous bunch of kids from Hollywood Primary School. While we explored the bushland next to the school for inspiration, we all agreed that it was appropriate for the mural to celebrate our local flora and fauna. We even spotted some red-tailed black cockatoos! The hospital also provides some nesting boxes for native birds on the grounds, which is wonderful.
The red-tailed black cockatoos, or Karrak in Noongar language, were chosen because they regularly fly over the hospital which is along their path from Kings Park to Bold Park and the coast. They are stunning birds and fly with such grace, no wonder most of us stop in our tracks to admire them. Their colours also happen to tie in with the surroundings of the mural, which was an important consideration for my design as I wanted to bring harmony to the space.
During our time together the students created a beautiful ‘cockatoo flock’ artwork combining their drawings and collage of plant outlines collected on our walk. I also showed them the process of painting a mural and they even joined me in the actual painting later on. When I asked afterwards who wanted to paint more murals most hands went up. So many aspiring muralists, isn’t it wonderful and inspiring? The kids’ enthusiasm and love of art certainly kept me going during the many hours that the mural took to complete.
While I painted I often thought of what was in that place before all the buildings, of a time when the sky was full of these majestic birds and their calls. I felt such reverence for the the traditional owners who knew how to live in harmony with the land and allow these magnificent creatures to thrive and sadness for what has been lost. Now the south-west population (subspecies naso) is listed as vulnerable due to habitat destruction.
Thanks to this project I feel so much more connected to these birds. I feel called to do my bit to help ensure this species survives so I am working on a small series based on this mural to help raise funds for Kaarakin.
Big thanks to the construction partner team at Ramsay Health and Georgiou Construction for making this project possible, it was truly an honour to be given such a prominent wall of a brand new building. Huge thanks to Hollywood Primary for hosting me; and to everyone who cheered me on.
I also thank Keith Lightbody who so generously provided his amazing photos to me as reference images for this project - you can find him at: http://www.zardec.net.au/keith/photos.htm
If you are in Perth and love cockatoos then you must book a visit to Kaarakin - you can find them here https://blackcockatoorecovery.com
1. Langston et al., 2010 ‘Visual art in hospitals: case studies and review of the evidence’, accessed 09/04/2022 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996524/
2. Temonen K. and T., 2021, ‘Art as contextual element in improving hospital patients’ well-being: A scoping review’ , accessed 09/04/2022 on https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/intellect/jaah/2021/00000012/00000002/art00007
3. Wecker M.; 2019, ‘Fine Art Is Good Medicine’: How Hospitals Around the World Are Experimenting With the Healing Power of Art’, accessed 09/04/2022 on https://news.artnet.com/art-world/how-hospitals-heal-with-art-1606699