Art school volunteers transform hospital walls with beautiful murals

Research suggests artwork can help patients with dementia

Art School of Peterborough exeutive director Jenni Johnston and volunteer Lori work on a mural in the C3 inpatient unit of Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC). Last fall, a team of 16 volunteers with the art school painted for three days per week over two months to create the murals. (Screenshot from PRHC video)
Art School of Peterborough exeutive director Jenni Johnston and volunteer Lori work on a mural in the C3 inpatient unit of Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC). Last fall, a team of 16 volunteers with the art school painted for three days per week over two months to create the murals. (Screenshot from PRHC video)

The Art School of Peterborough has teamed up with Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) to transform the normally blank walls of the hospital’s C3 inpatient unit with colourful and engaging murals — all for the benefit of the patients.

The hospital posted a video of the murals on its Facebook page on Wednesday (January 16), where it has already accumulated more than 27,000 views and over 700 reactions.

VIDEO: Murals at Peterborough Regional Health Centre

Last fall, a team of 16 volunteers with The Art School of Peterborough — a not-for-profit organization located in downtown Peterborough that provides art education — painted for three days per week over two months to create the murals.

“Seeing the faces of the patients as they watch you paint the colours on the wall, you can tell it’s made a difference from when we started drawing to when actually the colour hit the wall,” says Jenni Johnston, executive director of The Art School of Peterborough, in the video.

“It’s a project that I didn’t think would have this many ripple,” Johnson says. “So it’s very rewarding that we can make a tiny little ripple that will hopefully make a big change down the line.”

The use of murals in hospitals and long-term facilities is becoming more common. Research has shown the colours in the murals can be stimulating, and familiar and friendly scenes can be soothing and trigger positive feelings and memories, particularly for patients with dementia.

Research suggests that artwork with familiar and friendly scenes can be soothing and trigger positive feelings and memories in patients with dementia.  (Screenshot from PRHC video)
Research suggests that artwork with familiar and friendly scenes can be soothing and trigger positive feelings and memories in patients with dementia. (Screenshot from PRHC video)

“The mural benefits the patients by having a calming effect on the floor,” says Nicole, an RPN on the C3 unit. “It also helps the staff in that sense as well. Patients find that the murals are really cheerful and fun and it helps them throughout their day.”

In other jurisdictions, murals are being used to help disguise doors and elevators — these can increase anxiety and frustration in people with dementia by reminding them they can’t go home.

The murals at PRHC include illustrations of storefronts from the past, such as an old-style barbershop, which can encourage patients to reminisce about old memories. The murals also feature scenic landscapes and flowers.

“They look like the real thing,” says PRHC patient Neil in the video, referring to the flowers. “The colours look like the actual flower looks. You can almost smell them.”

The murals painted by Art School of Peterborough volunteers include illustrations of storefronts from the past, which can encourage patients to reminisce about old memories, as well as flowers, scenic landscapes, and more. (Screenshot from PRHC video)
The murals painted by Art School of Peterborough volunteers include illustrations of storefronts from the past, which can encourage patients to reminisce about old memories, as well as flowers, scenic landscapes, and more. (Screenshot from PRHC video)

The murals have also had a positive impact on the volunteers who created them.

“I think it’s absolutely beautiful how they react to the project and how they feel involved and loved,” says Miguel, project coordinator with the Art School of Peterborough.

“That makes me feel extremely happy. This is a way to give back and follow this dream of mine that is changing peoples’ lives with art.”

PRHC will be partnering with The Art School of Peterborough on another project in 2019, according to the video.

Miguel, project coordinator with the Art School of Peterborough, works on a mural. (Screenshot from PRHC video)
Miguel, project coordinator with the Art School of Peterborough, works on a mural. (Screenshot from PRHC video)

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