Atrium Party collaborative mural at Aurora campus courtesy of Childrens Hospital Colorado

The Atrium Party collaborative mural at the Children's Hospital Aurora campus, courtesy of Children's Hospital Colorado.

Children's Hospital Colorado

One of the joys of working at the Cultural Office is the opportunity to see how arts and culture intermingle with a variety of other sectors in our community. Recently, in north Colorado Springs, a…

One of the joys of working at the Cultural Office is the opportunity to see how arts and culture intermingle with a variety of other sectors in our community. Recently, in north Colorado Springs, a fascinating new platform for local arts is, quite literally, developing.

Children’s Hospital Colorado-Colorado Springs broke ground on the Memorial North Campus in Briargate in early May and is building the first comprehensive pediatric hospital in southern Colorado.

The expansion of one of the nation’s top pediatric health systems into southern Colorado will mean that our community’s children will finally have access to the care they need in their own community. Central to this vision of a robust children’s health system will be the region’s first hospital for kids, complemented by an expanding base of local pediatric experts, specialty programs and prevention efforts. In addition to serving our local kids, the vision is for the new hospital to be a regional asset, a point of civic pride and an economic driver.

It is also preparing to be a centerpiece for the arts.

At its flagship hospital in Aurora, Children’s Hospital Colorado has won accolades as a national leader in art therapy and the intersections between art and healthcare. The Aurora hospital is vibrant with original artwork installations, exhibitions and art therapy programming that engages patients and families with a spectrum of arts disciplines. These exemplary programs are largely privately funded by individual donors in the Denver area.

A vision of what the Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs could look like, courtesy of Children’s Hospital Colorado.

While the hospital system has a deep commitment to arts and has pioneered the integration of arts in the healing environment, the budget for art for the Colorado Springs hospital had to be eliminated due to the financial realities of the project. That reality is that the new hospital is pure mission work, a safety-net hospital to treat a fragile, diverse and vulnerable population. More than 50 percent of local children served will be Medicaid beneficiaries and more than 20 percent served will be children of military members, meaning this hospital will only receive full reimbursement for care for 30 percent of its patients.

That’s where the Cultural Office comes in.

We partnered with Children’s Hospital Colorado-Colorado Springs to apply last month to the National Endowment for the Arts and are seeking other sources of support to fund The Courage Commissions.

This new project will commission up to four unique, public artworks by local artists for permanent installation in the new hospital, united by the theme of courage. One of the pieces will be created collaboratively with the pediatric patients and other members of the broader community. Artists will be chosen through a juried process, selected by a newly formed Art Review Committee for the new hospital’s budding art collection. The Cultural Office will facilitate the selection and commissioning, and we’re excited about this project for several reasons.

First, we know art functions in powerful ways throughout our community, and this is an inspiring example of cross-sector impact.

When people think about health care, they rarely think about the role that the arts can play in a healing environment — not only for patients, but for their families, caregivers and the hospital clinical and administrative staff.

Second, we want to support investment in local artists. The Courage Commissions will offer funded public art commissions for local artists at a scale rarely seen in our region.

Third, we see Children’s Hospital Colorado-Colorado Springs positioning itself to be a cultural asset for north Colorado Springs, which has fewer arts and cultural venues than other areas of the city.

The staff truly want the atrium and public spaces to be welcoming additions to the neighborhood, even offering public events and live music! That’s exciting.

Henry David Thoreau famously said: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

In that spirit, the Cultural Office and Children’s Hospital Colorado-Colorado Springs have built a program design “in the air” and are now seeking to put the funding under it.

I’m happy to direct you if you’d like to learn more or even contribute to the project. We are very hopeful that The Courage Commissions will be unveiled concurrent with the new hospital opening in 2019.

As you drive past the construction site for Children’s Hospital Colorado-Colorado Springs in the years ahead, I hope it will make you think about the unique ways that art can add value to all of our public spaces, even the most clinical or unexpected.

Originally written by Angela Seals of the Cultural Office and published in the Woodmen Edition in June 2017.