SOUTHTOWN STAR – Artwork As A Way For Patients To Escape

Southtown Star — June 30, 2010

Every day the anxious moment is played out at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn: a parent watches a child alone in a room as a hospitals CT scanner searches for clues to what ails them.

Doctors who treat the patients at Hope Children’s hospital in Oak Lawn know the scene all too well.

“Seeing your child sick is not easy,” said Dr. Richard Heller, chief of pediatric radiology at both Hope and Christ medical center next door. “But we can help the child be less scared, which helps the parents, too.”

It’s why the hospital teamed up with the New York-based nonprofit RxArt to have well-known artist Jeff Koons transform a state-of-the-art CT scan room on the hospital’s campus in hopes of alleviating the stress and worry of patients and their parents.

On Tuesday, Koons, who briefly studied at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, unveiled his latest work in a most unconventional setting.

Heller initiated the project with RxArt, and the ideas for hope had struck a chord with RxArt founder Diane Brown.

Ten years ago, she started the organization to bring art into hospital settings after undergoing a CT scan herself.

“I was scared to death, “ she said. “I wanted to escape.”

She did, at least mentally, by thinking of painting she loved. And the idea took off.

Koons agreed to lend his talent and now his art is bringing about smiles and even a few laughs of the children and adults who undergo the exam.

Though the project was initiated by Hope, the CT scan room is shared by the children’s hospital and Christ.

All of it came without a charge to the hospitals, Kiehl’s Since 1851 footed the bill.

“These children are in very vulnerable moments,” Koons said. “It’s something that can be reassuring, give them a sense of future and optimism.”

The scanner has gone from sterile white to sky blue with the images of monkeys all over it.

Walls that patients will look up at as they pass through the scanner feature a donkey, a giant balloon dog and a hanging purple heart.

“I tried to choose images that I thought had a sense of comfort to them,” Koons said. “art can make something a little more pleasant and soothing to help children be in a healthy state of mind.”

So far, the idea is working.