The art of building child-friendly hospital space

The art of building a child-friendly hospital

Design in Flight by Margarete Haiss, Wooster High School


Colorful, engaging spaces and child-friendly art are woven throughout the fabric of Akron Children’s Hospital’s facilities. It’s an important part of the care it provides.

Spaces that make kids feel relaxed and happy, even though they’re in the hospital, can actually help with recovery and ease pain.

It was with this in mind that hospital leadership asked the design team for the Kay Jewelers Pavilion to look “through the eyes of a child” during the planning process. The result is The Backyard, the building’s design theme.

The building has more than 400 pieces of colorful, child-friendly art that follow this theme, including 285 pieces of art from area schoolchildren and sculptures from local artists.

Art consultant Ron Beahn coordinates Children’s art program. A popular watercolorist, Beahn, who curated Goodyear’s $6 million art collection, owns a framing store in Cuyahoga Falls and has been director of the Boston Mills Arts Festival for many years.

The art of building a child-friendly hospital

Circle of Friends by Virgil Villers

Art for outdoor space

Akron Children’s art program extends beyond the interior of the new building with several outdoor sculptures that have been incorporated into the landscape. All pieces were created by northeast Ohio artists and have a distinct purpose.

Virgil Villers created a colorful and whimsical sculpture, entitled “Circle of Friends,” which is near the FedEx Outdoor Amphitheater and main entry drop off.

Made from painted ½-inch plate steel, it features a diverse “family” including an 11-ft. tall giraffe, 8-ft. tall elephant and 7-ft. tall rhino joyously playing together. A 3-ft. tall baby hippo sits nearby with outstretched arms, welcoming others to join him.

The sculpture’s bright colors will enliven the landscape during gray winter days. At night, it’s carefully lit so the dancing friends can be seen at all times, while also casting interesting shadows through the intricate cut-outs in the steel.

Charlotte Lees created several pieces, entitled “Come Play,” made from powder-coated aluminum. The cut-outs and shapes in the aluminum, including toys, kites and birds, are reminiscent of seek-and-find coloring books where children try to find hidden shapes.

The colorful pieces are in the gardens below the bridge from the parking deck. During winter months, they too will help brighten the grounds.

Sculpture by Don Drumm

Sculpture by Don Drumm

A 6-ft. tall, 1,000-lb. stone sculpture entitled “Nurture” was created by Alice Kiderman to portray optimism and hope for families waiting in the new Emergency Department, as well as hospital staff. Designed to appeal to adults, this sculpture was carved from a 2,000-lb. piece of Indiana limestone.

It features two components: a heavier, textured base representing a parent and supporting a smaller, smooth shape that extends upward, representing a child.

In addition to these pieces, local artist Don Drumm donated three free-standing sculptures to adorn the grounds of the building.

Although Drumm didn’t design the sculptures specifically for the hospital, they’re a beautiful reflection of the families we serve.  

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