Architectural Digest – Artist Rob Pruitt Transforms a Children’s Hospital Into a Fantastical Aquatic Escape

Architectural Digest — August 19, 2019

In partnership with RxArt, Pruitt has created an immersive cruise-ship like installation in the radiation department at CHOC in California to make the space an engaging and healing environment.

By Katherine McGrath

For young patients in the radiation department at the Children’s Hospital in Orange County, California, a trip to the doctor is now a fantastical journey: Pandas frolic about, whales make a splash, seagulls survey the scene, and there’s even a dog on deck. These are the illustrations of American post-conceptualist artist Rob Pruitt, whose work in partnership with RxArt has transformed CHOC’s halls into a colorful playground, intended to make a child’s stay in the hospital just a bit brighter.

“There is a growing body of research on the value of the arts in health care settings that we would like to contribute to,” says Diane Brown, founder and executive director of RxArt. “We encourage our artists to fully transform the hospital settings into engaging, healing environments. It really helps the patients and their family members focus on a positive visual distraction.” The nonprofit’s most recent project, an immersive aquatic-themed work by Pruitt, features deep sea blue and purple waves with dolphins and whales splashing about – there are even a few of Pruitt’s signature panda bears thrown in.

To incorporate the existing terrazzo floor with blue curves and swirls, and since Orange County is so close to the Pacific Ocean, Pruitt chose a cruise ship theme to cleverly make use of the yards and yards of handrails in the corridors. “These two elements together made me think about observing fantastical aquatic life from the deck of a ship,” the artist tells AD.

To achieve the immersive effect, Pruitt created floor-to-ceiling wall coverings, and created decals for the CT scan machines that look like life preservers, complete with a seagull perched on top. To give the project a more personal touch, he also included a painting of his dog, Gilda, who is playfully hanging out aboard the ship. “Rob wanted there to be surprises wherever children’s eyes will land to ensure they have something fun to focus on,” says Brown.

For Pruitt, who, as with all RxArt projects, donated his time and talent pro bono, the response has been overwhelming. “I’ve been able to witness how effective art in a hospital is – what an effective diversion and distraction it is for everyone, especially the kids,” he says. At the ribbon cutting earlier this summer, a 10-year-old patient who has been receiving treatment at the hospital since she was two years old told Rob and the rest of the team that she had always been afraid of the CT machine; she felt like it was going to swallow her. “When she saw Rob’s lifesaver surrounding the machine, she though it was awesome and was excited to have the test,” recalls Brown. The nonprofit is hard at work expanding its reach to bring uplifting environments to more hospitals around the country, with projects from artists including Nicolas Party, Nina Chanel Abney, and Jonas Wood on the way.