Tens of thousands of children each year are wheeled and escorted down a first-floor corridor at Phoenix Children’s Hospital – Thomas Campus for surgery and other medical procedures.

The hallway connects to the hospital’s emergency department (ED), imaging, and elevators to the operating room and intensive care unit—areas which had more than 110,000 visitors in 2023, and where approximately 25,000 surgeries were performed, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital partners with RxArt

The hospital system’s Children’s Advisory Board, comprising patients and their siblings ages 12-18, identified the hallway as an area that needed to be more patient friendly and uplifting—specifically using art to create a calming environment in this high-traffic, and potentially high-anxiety, area, according to a news release.

To address this need, Phoenix Children’s partnered with RxART, a New York-based nonprofit organization that promotes the use of art in healthcare, to commission a mural for the corridor walls by contemporary artist Shara Hughes.

“Wonder and Wander” mural by Artist Shara Hughes

Unveiled in May, the new, 407-foot mural, titled “Wonder and Wander,” features rolling, rainbow-colored hills, a sunrise over a glittering lake, trees and fields of flowers and grass.

Rendered on paper using art materials familiar to children—colored pencil, oil pastel, watercolor, marker, and crayon—the artwork was enlarged and transferred to a hospital-safe, custom wall covering for installation, marking the largest project ever completed by RxART.

“The drawing shifts in materials and perspective of what you can and can’t see ahead and behind you,” Hughes said in the news release. “While the unknown is present in the drawings, I wanted it to feel like a safe, positive, and hopeful space where kids could reflect, to find a moment of respite, and see a landscape change, move and grow. I wanted it to feel exciting and hopeful to move through.”

David Lenhardt, board chairman at Phoenix Children’s and a board member at RxART, agrees. “You can’t help but smile when you see this piece,” he said in the news release. “I know it will make all the difference for kids battling illness or trauma who may need an extra dose of joy.”

For more on integrating art into healthcare spaces, read here.

Robert McCune is senior editor of Healthcare Design and can be reached at robert.mccune@emeraldx.com.