May 17, 2022

Walking into exam rooms at the Tay River Health Centre in Perth, Ont., patients are welcomed by local pieces of art.

“It was actually one of our nurses who came up with the idea of having local students produce the artwork that we would have in the clinic space,” said operations manager Kathryn Ransom-Hodges.

The team then reached out to four different schools in the area. Submissions are now coming in.

“We left it pretty wide open for the students,” Ransom-Hodges said. “We did request that it be related to health care, but really, artistic interpretation is important, right? And everybody has got a different experience with healthcare.”

The first four paintings came from Grade 6 students at The Stewart School, volunteering their time because of their passion for drawing.

Callie Wheeler decided to draw a cat and dog dressed up as health-care professionals.

A painting by Callie Wheeler of The Stewart School. (Submitted/UCDSB)

“I wanted it to be childish, or so children could admire it and maybe feel better about going to the hospital,” she said.

Heera Thind painted a nurse on a purple backdrop.

“(She) was holding up her hand and was kind of like supporting a heart and lungs, like supporting the health-care system,” Thind said. “I also made her a person of colour because it’s good to be inclusive.”

A painting by Heera Thind of The Stewart School. (Submitted/UCDSB)

“I also made a person of colour because I wanted to make my painting more diverse,” said Masha Smolentseva-Felepchuk. “It’s basically a doctor and she’s holding a paintbrush and a painting pallet and she’s painting bright colours around her.”

A painting by Masha Smolentseva-Felepchuk of The Stewart School. (Submitted/UCDSB)

Mya Truelove did the forth painting.

“I made nurses’ hands forming into a heart showing that everybody’s in it together,” she said. “I feel proud and happy.”

A painting by Mya Truelove of The Stewart School. (Submitted/UCDSB)

School principal Stacie Dowdall says the students didn’t take long to finish their masterpieces once they locked down an idea.

“They did it all on their own time. The health unit sent the canvases over and it didn’t take them all that long. We we’re all blown away,” she said.

“All of us in the office were looking at them and we were quick to show them off.” Dowdall smiled.

“Kathryn kind of pitched it as, ‘Think about children coming into the waiting room at the medical centre, or being with a doctor waiting and being nervous,’” she added. “To have the kids pick something that might be a conversation piece that might alleviate some anxiety, to be able to do that to support the community is really special.”

The health centre has 12 examination rooms, and two pieces of art will hang in each for a total 24 pieces.

The four pieces from the Grade 6 students were the first to be hung up.

“I was really blown away by one, the willingness of the local schools to help us do this and two, like I picked up the canvases one day and pulled them out of the bag when I got back to the clinic and I just, I was blown away by the sheer talent and beauty of some of these pieces,” Ransom-Hodges said.

“The interpretation of people in terms of health care and how they wanted to connect to that theme, everybody’s got a different experience and just seeing that being brought to life is really interesting,” she added.

Dr. Taylor Ferrier, a family physician at the health centre, says the artwork have so far been a hit with patients, even if the medical discussions involve bad news.

“Of late, the conversation has started with these beautiful pieces of artwork behind us,” Dr. Ferrier said. “It’s allowed us to transition to more difficult conversations a lot easier. Frankly, the patients are glad to have these pieces in our rooms; it lightens the mood and makes them feel more at ease.”

“I don’t think any of us anticipated such excellent work coming from our local students here in our community,” he added, joking most of his colleagues agreed they are not as talented as the students are.

“We have some professional painters who are patients of ours come in here and just they just think that they are completely remarkable, they are amazing, and they can’t believe some of the skillset that some of these kids and the talent they already are demonstrating here,” Dr. Ferrier said.

“These can create a kind of welcome diversion for people and it’s created quite a little conversation between the physician or the nurse and the patient who is here,” added Ransom-Hodges.

“Thank you so much to all the teachers and students for their participation and helping bringing the clinic space to life.” 

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