Artists commissioned to add ‘fun’ to MRI room at children’s hospital
By Emily DeRuy
A trip to the hospital can be daunting, but for children, the prospect can be downright scary. To ease their fears, Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego turned to art. In 2009, Aesthetics Inc. commissioned fine artists Ken and Stephanie Goldman to create 18 wall coverings for the newly renovated Rady Children’s Hospital. The husband-and-wife team was charged with transforming patient rooms, corridors, and the neonatal intensive care unit, into whimsical and “fun” spaces. To that end, the pair painted outdoor scenes, featuring everything from tide pools to outer space, using transparent watercolors on Arches watercolor paper and non-water soluble ink pen that were then enlarged seven or eight times.
It was not the first time the couple worked together. In the mid-1980s, Stephanie completed an apprenticeship with Ken that then evolved into a marriage and artistic partnership based out of Point Loma. Ken has authored seven instructional books and exhibited across the United States, Europe and Mexico. His work is displayed in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the San Diego Museum of Fine Art, and the San Diego Museum of Natural History.
Stephanie spent time living and studying in Europe, focusing on European and Renaissance art, as well as anthroposophic art therapy. Her child portrait series, “I Am A Child,” originally displayed in the Riverside Art Museum, is now in the permanent collection of the Osteopathic Center for Children and Families in San Diego.
Both Goldmans teach at the Athenaeum School of the Arts in La Jolla. They often collaborate, and have produced multiple large-scale mural projects, including works at the San Diego Humane Society and in private residences.
Reaction to their mural work at Rady has been overwhelmingly positive, and this year, the couple was asked by Sharp and Children’s MRI Center CEO Keith Prince to complete a series of murals and cartoon vignettes in Rady’s new MRI Center.
A child’s toy table with sea animals provided the inspiration for the art.
“When I described the theme and design ideas, they seemed to be very interested in conveying and developing the theme,” said Prince of the Goldmans. “They quickly provided renderings that matched the ideas we discussed. It was impressive how close the renderings were to the concepts.”
Atypical of the art Ken and Stephanie usually produce, the murals feature cartoon images of sea life, and are intended to look like a seascape as viewed from a submarine — in this case, the MRI scanner.
Completed three days early in a total of eight days, the MRI room mural is 9 feet by 19 feet, while the waiting room mural is 4 feet by 8 feet. Featuring colorful fish and scuba-diving children, the murals are upbeat and fun. The pair also painted approximately 30 smaller vignettes throughout the rooms, and four small images directly onto the MRI scanner.
Like the artwork the couple previously completed for the hospital, the studies were originally done in watercolor and then scaled to fit the walls. The final works were done in acrylic, without airbrush or spray guns, due to potential interference with the MRI machine.
When asked why two award-winning artists who have exhibited works internationally would devote time to painting cartoon images at Rady, Ken’s answer was simple: “Being able to bring artwork to kids who are frightened and need brightening up in a sterile environment was a great opportunity.”
If the young patients who have seen the murals and vignettes so far are any indication, the Goldmans have succeeded. Children enter the room and immediately investigate the underwater scenes, pronouncing them “cool” and “fun.” Some have even developed stories for the creatures they see on the walls, a perfect distraction from what for many of the kids is a litany of medical procedures and tests.
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