A panel of parents, doctors, nurses and children chose the artists who would paint the walls of the new Teck Acute Care Centre at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“They went through all the work submitted by all the artists across Canada,” says Nelson graphic designer Nichola Lytle. “They chose the pieces and the styles they connected with and would want to be next to while receiving treatment or performing it. That part is really exciting and kind of touching.”
Lytle was one of the 60 artists chosen out of 1,200 applicants asked to create sculpture, mixed media, paintings, and murals.
When Lytle, the mother of two young children, found out she’d been chosen for mural designs she had submitted, she first thought about children she knows.
“A number of my friends have kids who have been treated at that hospital, a lot of close friends, and so the idea that I would be able to give in some way to that large vision was really exciting. Often with my design work I am communicating a very direct message whereas with this I had more leeway.
She was asked to create murals based on west coast scenery.
“The first thing I thought of is where mountains meet water, all the light that happens in that space between mountains and water. I could have done realism. I could have done fantasy. But what I wanted to do was combine those two and make it seem seem like a somewhat realistic world but with this fantasy curious element.”
She also thought about scale.
“I wanted to bring it to a scale that was life-like, so people felt they were in the scene. I didn’t want people to feel like voyeurs, looking as a scene from afar, but I wanted them to feel embraced in the scene, enveloped in it. I wanted the scale to be so big that it felt they were right in it.
“Another theme was hope and light. I wanted the parents and the staff and the children to feel hopeful and bright and light.”
This is all part of the $6 million donor-funded Children’s Healing Experience Project and it is the first of its kind in Canada.
The hospital website states that “there is a growing body of evidence that healing experiences using purposeful art can result in measurable clinical outcomes, including reduction in anxiety, perception of pain, and need for sedation, as well as shortened hospital stays.”
Some of Lytle’s creations were for door panels. Describing one of those, she says, “This one is about family. It might not be obvious at first. I wanted to show kinship and family and belonging. Another one of them is a campfire scene with little animals huddled around a campfire in the mountains. Some are by themselves but some have kids with them. It is about connection and pulling together, being together. Again the light, the hope, but in all the pictures there is also dark. That is how you create light.
“The jellyfish one, the magical aspect of nature — you can make something look magical and it is almost more real than nature itself.”
With a Fine Arts Honors degree from Queen’s University, she’s been working for clients near and far from her home in Blewett since 2001, and has taught graphic design at Selkirk College.
“I love my job. My job is being a translator, helping people communicate, helping them get to the essence of a message and helping them to communicate it, whether it is a mural or logos or branding.”
She says working in a small community entails a special responsibility.
“In a small town I hold myself very accountable to the people I work for. I always want to represent them with my best effort, contribute back to the community in every way I can. To be able to help local non-profits share the great things they do is really important to me.