Children’s Health Ireland inspires wellbeing with its beautiful Balloon Tree

The state of the art paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre brings innovative art into the lives of children, young people and their families attending the facility.
The paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Connolly in Blanchardstown features an exciting new artwork by renowned glass artist Róisín de Buitléar which was conceived with a view to creating a healthy, uplifting and child-friendly environment throughout the facility. Entitled The Balloon Tree and funded by NCH Foundation Tallaght, this is the first completed artworks as part of a programme of public art commissioned by CHI. The programme began with an open competition in 2017 through which eight leading artists / teams of artists were selected to develop original artworks for the public spaces of the paediatric outpatient and urgent care centres at CHI at Connolly in Blanchardstown and CHI at Tallaght, and in the public spaces of the new children’s hospital.

Commenting on The Balloon Tree, Eilísh Hardiman, Chief Executive, CHI said: “As well as providing the best clinical environment for our patients, their families and our staff, we were keen to ensure that they feel welcome, inspired and comforted by their surroundings when they visit or work in the new facility. There is mounting evidence of art’s clinical’s benefits and it is important our new facilities bring new and exciting ways to harness its potential. The artwork throughout the CHI at Connolly seeks to promote a calming, healing and uplifting environment for all those that walk through our doors. Discovering playful and hidden elements in the art provides a stress-relieving distraction for children and families.”

Those who attend CHI at Connolly are greeted in the foyer of the Outpatient Department by the colourful Balloon Tree. Taking the form of a 5.2-metre-steel sculpture, it is reminiscent of a child’s drawing and is filled with colourful balloons nestled in the tree’s branches. These balloons are made from mouth-blown glass by Róisín de Buitléar who has brought 35 years of experience in glass-making to this artwork. Dotted throughout the building are more colourful balloons in surprising locations on corridors, stairways, and appearing to float in the urgent care centre and sub-waiting rooms, they create an airy, welcoming and whimsical atmosphere. A similar piece will be displayed at CHI at Tallaght, which is due to open in 2021. Viewers are given a behind the scenes insight into the concept and production of the tree and balloons by viewing the video below.

Róisín de Buitléar, the artist behind the Balloon Tree commented: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute this artwork to the new Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centres. The piece is a play on the idea of the lost balloon, playfully flowing through the floor levels, lodged in unusual and unlikely places. Glass balloons will never deflate, discolour or deteriorate, so that each time a child returns to the centre and looks for a balloon in a particular place, it will be there to be found, greeting him like a familiar friend. In this environment the balloons suggest a feeling of the outdoors, of happy moments to be cherished, of a life beyond the facility’s walls and illness. The CHI Arts Programme enabled me to engage with new audiences in new ways and I hope that the artwork helps to provide moments of playfulness and spark imaginative stories, within the busy clinical environment.”

CHI Arts in partnership with Draíocht Arts Centre Blanchardstown, hosted a celebration of The Balloon Tree in the Outpatient Department in CHI at Connolly. The event was attended by local children and their parents, staff working in the three children’s hospitals.  Storyteller Fiona Dowling in collaboration with the children, created stories about lost balloons, and the surprising adventures they might take. This was followed by a Q&A session by artist Róisín de Buitléar, who explained the secrets of glass making and more about how the inspiration behind her wonderful artwork.