Does art have healing powers?

The folks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital certainly seem to think so. And after touring the new hospital wing, currently under construction, I’m inclined to agree.

"All the hospital's a stage...or canvas" thanks to artistic use of light, shape, color, texture and more in the new wing of Phoenix Children's Hospital set to open late Jan 2011

I explored the first three floors of this work in progress along with Daniel Friedman, the magazine’s “DYK?” writer and photographer par excellence, just last week.

Upper floors are still in the “hardhat” stage when it comes to tours, and we weren’t fortunate enough to have time that afternoon to don the hardhats and other gear that would assure our safety.

But I’ll be writing about the wonders of all 11 floors in a future piece for the magazine.

Think high-efficiency lighting, calming colors and shapes, and curved lines that up the warm and inviting factor.

The first freestanding Phoenix Children’s Hospital opened in May of 2002. I recall being impressed while touring that site with both the quality and quantity of artwork created by children and teens in school or community settings.

It’s still there today. Shadow boxes with three-dimensional hearts or animals. Wall murals with butterflies and flowers. Bright, cheerful paintings that make it clear this is a place, first and foremost, for children.

Parts of the new wing will be open and in use come the end of January 2011.

We didn’t see any traditional art pieces hanging on the walls during our tour, but we saw plenty of walls, floors, furniture, lights and other elements that doubled as art in their own right.

Instead of primary colors, used in the first freestanding complex, this wing features more natural desert shades of colors like green, blue, yellow and orange. Walls sport small shiny tiles that reflect light or iridescent strips that glimmer like mother of pearl.

Each floor has its own color scheme, theme and flower — reflected in elements such as photographic wall murals, signage, furnishings and more. Those of you who consider cooking an art will be especially wowed by the new dining area, which features a blend of retro and ultra-modern touches.

There will be less need for art to hang on the walls in this new portion of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Most of the walls have plenty of their own colors, shapes, textures and other unique touches.

And although it’s very visually appealing, the ambience of the new wing is calming. I imagine it will at once cheer and soothe the children and teens who receive care there.

There’s also a spacious garden area where parents can spend time in reflection and relaxation — an especially necessary environment when facing the stress of a child’s hospitalization.

A giant chandelier will hang in the atrium of the new hospital wing, another testament to the care architects, designers and planners have taken to honor the healing power of art.

Whether or not your child receives care at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, this is a place you will want to explore with your family. You’ll see design elements it’s unlikely you’ve encountered elsewhere, and you just might find yourself inspired to new ways of thinking about your home, your health and your community.

— Lynn

Note: Visit Phoenix Children’s Hospital online to learn more about the hospital’s history, future plans, patient services, community outreach and volunteer/donor opportunities. For more photos of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, visit them on Flickr.

Coming up: Musings on art therapy, Celtic dance to chorus line, Parties with a purpose, The fine art of dinosaurs?

Photo: Lynn Trimble tests a “squishy tile” while tourng the new wing of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Special thanks to photographer Daniel Friedman for capturing the remarkable likeness between these tiles and my hair color.

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