The art of healing

QCA student Natalie Lavelle working on the 60m wall mural

Griffith student Natalie Lavelle has produced a stunning 60-metre mural for the Queensland Children’s Hospital, creating an oasis of colour for young oncology patients.

The Bachelor of Fine Art Honours student was mentored by QCA lecturer Dr Simon Degroot, who has completed large-scale public art commissions across Australia.

The eye-catching artwork, Mindful Trace, has transformed a drab walkway linking the Queensland Children’s Hospital and the Radiation Oncology Mater Centre, where young patients travel daily for radiation treatment.

A labour of love

Natalie, a mum of two young boys, said the project was a labour of love.

“Art has a very special role to play in a hospital, and it’s such a wonderful opportunity to be part of it,” she said.

“It’s amazing to be able to turn a sterile hospital hallway into an amazing public art space.

Natalie Lavelle with the finished mural.

“It was really touching seeing the children running their hands up and down the painting.

“I decided to create these colourful, imaginative abstract fields of colour and lines to create a feeling of freedom, and allow the children to escape from reality for a moment, and take their mind somewhere else.

“An abstract piece like this can convey so many things, and it allows people to use their imaginations.”

Taking art outside the gallery

Natalie said the project had sparked a passion for public art.

“Going into university, my focus was on studio work, but I’ve found that I enjoy working on a large scale, and really exaggerating my brushstrokes.

“I also really like the idea of people being able to enjoy art outside of a gallery. I’m excited to see where this leads.”

A blank canvas

Dr Simon Degroot

Dr Degroot said the project was an extension of his summer public art elective, an intensive three-week course which gives students the chance to collaborate on a large-scale public artwork.

“Projects like this give students the chance to engage in professional relationships outside university and build their professional practice,” he said.

“The opportunity to work on this scale doesn’t come along too often, and Natalie worked closely with the hospital to create an artwork that helps to develop a connection with the wider community.”

The healing power of art

Dr Degroot said art played an important role at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

“This project supports the hospital’s Arts in Health program, which advocates the importance of arts programs to promote healing and recovery, and to support emotional wellbeing,” he said.

“It joins the hospital artwork collection, which brings colour, joy and life to the building, transforming the hospital from a clinical hospital environment to a vibrant and engaging space where patients’ imaginations can be engaged.”

‘The first of many collaborations’

Arts in Health Manager Lynn Seear

Queensland Children’s Hospital Arts in Health manager Ms Lynn Seear said she hoped it was the first of many collaborations between the Queensland Children’s Hospital and the QCA.

“This was a really special project – commissioning a senior artist to mentor an emerging artist – and it was a seamless experience,” she said.

“Everyone loves it and it’s really transformed the space.

“Both Simon and Natalie have small kids themselves, and they understand what the stakes are here, and they each brought a really personal commitment to the project.”

The artwork was commissioned by the Children’s Hospital Foundation, and completed with the generous assistance of Taubmans Paint and the Purdy Family, whose child received treatment at the Queensland Children’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit.