Art and the new Montreal Children’s Hospital

My son had an appointment recently at the Montreal Children’s and we saw the Children’s section of the new MUHC hospital for the first time.

I knew the artwork would be different. At an appointment earlier this year at the old building, a doctor lamented the loss of the paintings on walls that made the old hospital special.

For instance, when you were waiting for a clinic appointment at the old Montreal Children’s Hospital on Tupper, you would see this, a mural that took up an entire wall.

A storybook-themed mural at the old Montreal Children'sMural at Old Montreal Children's Hospital

Painted by a guild of local artists who call themselves Montreal Area Decorative Painters, the mural had a storybook theme. It even included a “Where’s Waldo” sort of game where children would find different creatures and objects within the mural.

A playground in the centre of the waiting area made waiting easy for children. Volunteers provided children with all sorts of games they could play as they sat at child-sized tables. Close by, a giant glass case featured a tower of colourful origami whooping cranes.

Tower of colourful origami paper whooping cranes in glass case at old Montreal Children's Hospital

By contrast, this is what we saw at the new waiting area for clinics. It’s not child-centred in the least. It looks like something you’d see at an art gallery. Sure, it’s colourful but there’s nothing about it that speaks to children:

a painting at the new Montreal Children's Hospital

The waiting room has rows of chairs. There is a playground area one floor below the waiting area. The building has an atrium and plenty of light but the walls are often bare and lack character. The new hospital resembles a shopping mall.

After meeting my son’s doctor we headed to the blood test centre where we waited for over an hour. My son is nearly 18 and can handle waiting (he and the other teenagers in the room were on their cell phones) but we saw children who were under three years old have tantrums and many of the children waiting were under seven years old. Parents were playing videos on their cellphones or walking with their children and trying all sorts of things to keep their kids busy during the wait. The only things I saw in that waiting room that reflected children’s needs were two plastic chairs in the shape of cats and and tables that were lower to the ground so that small children could sit at them. One girl who looked like she was perhaps eight years old took her bracelet off and put it on the table, playing around with it as her entertainment.

The old waiting area near the blood test centre was a long hallway that featured paintings from the Little Prince, screened movies on TVs hanging above, and had tables with children’s books and toys. I hope they bring back the books and toys. At the very least the hospital could warn parents to bring some sort of entertainment because bringing your child to a clinic for tests can be difficult, especially if they’re sick. But waiting ages to have their blood drawn and having nothing available to help get through the long wait isn’t only hard for children, it’s hard on parents too.

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