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What is Operation: Art?

Operation: ArtIn Susy's words, Operation: Art is a unique initiative at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Our goal is to simply bring art into the hospital to make a child’s experience here less frightening and I am the fortunate gal who has therefore been painting murals and canvases for the past 8 years. It is an honour to be a (small) part of such an amazing place and to think that my artwork is lightening and brightening the overall experience of hospital life. The positive feedback and response to my work has been incredible and I am sincerely touched and grateful for the support and encouragement I’ve received from kids, parents and staff alike.

I’ve seen first hand what a positive difference it makes to the hospital environment. I think of the child who is brought into Emergency, unsure and frightened but is immediately greeted by a friendly family of colourful birds. I’ve seen the face of a child light up when they round a clinic corner, and stare in wonder and delight at the colourful scene before them. I’ve heard the tears stop when their imaginations whirl away, getting lost in the pictures, characters and details of the murals. No longer are they in an unsettling medical environment, but deep underwater with googily-eyed fish, or way up a tree star-gazing with friends, or perched high along a telegraph line with a flock of lively birds. I’ve witnessed numerous quiet moments of parent/child interactions and discussions about what is going on in the designs when they would otherwise simply be pacing the hallways in worry or boredom.

I spend a lot of time thinking, planning and quietly imagining each mural before I start, taking into consideration specific requests and guidelines the department has of course. Sketch upon sketch is worked through until the final design emerges. Often the design is dictated by the space and its function, with lots of input and suggestions from the staff (who will be living with the images on a day to day basis and often have a good feel for what would work best). I take great care to create designs that will appeal to a wide audience knowing that Sick Kids treats little ones all the way up to “way-cool” teenagers. I am mindful that those visiting the Hospital come from all corners of the world and from every possible culture, ethnic background and range of physical ability. I choose bright and happy colours but keep them slightly muted so that they aren’t overwhelmingly bright. I spend time painting in a multitude of little details and giving the characters personality, which help make my murals ever engaging to the viewer. My murals aren’t static pictures – they are snapshots from a bigger story – a moment caught in time surrounded by whatever the viewer dreams of.

Every time I walk along a blank hallway I see endless possibility. All of my work has been made possible by generous private donations. I have been welcomed into the Sick Kids family and to know that my work, my little contribution to this incredible place, has made a difference and is appreciated by so many is truly humbling and heart-warming.

I have always dreamed that my creative interests would help me enrich the lives of others and it gives me great pleasure to share my ideas and light-hearted designs with the world. And sharing them with kids in a hospital, those in most need of a gentle hug, some cheer and a giggle or two, is wonderful.