New artwork series ‘Off the Wall’ at CHI at Connolly

In February 2021, staff in Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Connolly welcomed a series of artworks called ‘Off the Wall’ in key procedure rooms with the aim to create conversations with patients and inspired by drawings from children and young people who came to the Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre in Autumn 2020.

‘Off the Wall’ was in response to a wish expressed by CHI at Connolly staff for artwork to be introduced to key procedure rooms in CHI at Connolly, to create conversations and stories with children and young people while they undergo a procedure. The project was curated by the CHI Arts in Health programme in partnership with the CHI at Connolly Blank Canvas Group, working with artist and illustrator Alan Dunne.

Through a process of creative engagement with children, young people, their families, and CHI at Connolly staff, the artist created a series of artworks for key procedure rooms within CHI at Connolly. The resulting artworks by the artist were inspired by drawings created by some of the children and young people who visited CHI at Connolly in 2020, along with conversations the artist conducted with staff. The artworks encourage the well-being of patients and staff by inspiring conversations and by acting as a colourful distraction in a sometimes busy and stressful environment.

Artwork CHI at Connolly

Drawings were produced in the form of ceiling vinyl and wall decals for four rooms in CHI at Connolly: a procedure room, two measuring rooms, and a plastering room. Ideas and themes that emerged were Irish nature and animals along with their accompanying onomatopoeic sounds, outer space, fairies and magic, and everyday objects from planes to soda cups were there too. Overall, the artworks have an element of fantasy to them, which gives them a playful and surreal feel.

Principal Clinical Psychologist, Aoife Brinkley said the project has made a huge impact and the children’s artistic input makes the artwork feel more authentic.

‘I’ve been taken aback by the difference it makes when a design takes the use of and dimensions of the space into account. In other hospital areas, I’ve seen areas brightened by “off-the-shelf” children’s decals. But the difference between that and what has resulted from the off-the-walls project is huge. The way in which the children’s drawings informed the design gives the images an authenticity and richness that would be lacking if commercial products were used. And I think that makes them much more attractive to children. It’s hard to put it into words but there’s a cohesiveness to these spaces now – the images feel like they belong there and the bird on the wall is as important to the space as the piece of equipment. The thought that has gone into them communicates real respect for the children and families that use our service.’

This was the first time the artist Alan Dunne worked in a Health Care setting and found the project rewarding as he discovered art has the potential to help shape a healthcare experience for a child.

‘Working as an artist in a healthcare setting led me to explore how art could be interacted with outside of the traditional gallery setting. I learned how art has the potential to help shape a healthcare experience in a positive and meaningful way and despite the residency taking place during the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 lockdowns, it was an opportunity to try remotely done patient and staff engagement exercises, to be inspired by the artwork created by CHI staff and children, to respond to valuable feedback from CHI staff about the spaces, and the procedures carried out there. It was a rewarding art project and I hope that my artworks will be enjoyed by patients and staff for many years to come.’

About the Artist Alan Dunne

Alan Dunne is an Irish visual artist and author who works mostly in illustration, comics, graphic printmaking, paper craft, and motion graphics. He is passionate about all aspects of the graphic arts and is hugely interested in vernacular design and uncovering stories through cultural-historical archives. This is reflected in his heavily researched and considered comics, heritage-based commissions and re-appropriation of vernacular typography and graphic aesthetics in his work.

Before becoming an independent artist, he worked for 12 years at RTÉ Television, Ireland’s national broadcaster, working on opening titles, channel idents, graphics for documentaries, and feature films.