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Algoma University and Sault Area Hospital collaborate to bring art and comfort to Transitional Care Unit

Algoma University and Sault Area Hospital have collaborated on an initiative aimed at enhancing the patient experience through local art to provide a sense of home to patients in transitional care.

The partnership is centred around the Special Topics in Studio Art Course – Murals and Visual Enhancements for the Transitional Care Unit, offered in winter 2024 at Algoma U. This course invited students to envision, design, and install art pieces within the unit. Jennifer Harvey, Recreational Therapist with Behavioural Support Ontario (BSO), initiated the collaboration with Algoma University and partnered with Andrea Pinheiro, Professor of Visual Arts. Together, they developed a course that brings students into the hospital to create murals for communal areas and other visual enhancements for patient rooms and hallways. The aim was to transform the unit into a more engaging, home-like, and therapeutic space for patients, many of whom are living with neurocognitive disorders.

Katie Huckson, Sessional Faculty at Algoma University Visual Arts and PhD candidate at McMaster University, instructed the special topics course, which included six upper-year undergraduate students: Zooey Chapman, Ayla-Rose Warth, D’lyla Trudeau, Sophia Murray, Ariana Petainen, and Heather Stewart. As part of their studies, students consulted with Harvey and received training from DementiAbility Canada to guide their choices of colour and subject matter. Their collaborative mural design featured elements such as bush planes, sailboats, ceramics, an aquarium, hanging plants, and scenic vistas inspired by northern landscapes.

“Initially, we spent a lot of time researching appropriate mural designs for the specific needs and demographics of the unit,” said Katie Huckson. “The physical environment plays a crucial role in the quality of life for patients, particularly those in acute care and with neurocognitive disorders. Patients’ reaction to the work we did demonstrates how art can enhance clinical environments, making it more meaningful, promoting wellbeing, and creating a livelier and more welcoming space for patients during their stay.” 

In addition to the painted murals, students installed printed vinyl stickers of artworks created for patient rooms. “In shared rooms, one or two patients may have access to a window, while the patient on the other side of the room has no view. We wanted to ensure any patient without a window view had an artwork to look at,” explained Huckson.

To ensure that every patient room without a window received artwork, student Ayla-Rose Warth sourced contributions from talented Algoma Region artists. These included Lyndsey Young, Warren Peterson, Amy Williams, Lucia O’Connor Laford, Diane Belair, Mary Stevenson, Tania Taraniuk-Caputo, Leonna Cere (Marblehead Studio), Casonia Warth, Viviana Vergara, Taimi Poldmaa, and June DiPasquale.

In 2023, Algoma University Bachelor of Fine Arts Alumni and former studio technician Desiree Watson along with a team of student volunteers also painted a mural for the coffee nook area at the hospital.

This partnership marks an important step towards future collaborations between the Sault Area Hospital and Algoma University’s Visual Arts program.

For images please click here.

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