A pair of suburban artists are thinking tropical these days, as in tropical fish.
Sharon Lewert of Palatine and Lynn Ward of Arlington Heights are putting finishing touches on a mural designed to liven up the nurses station in the pediatric emergency department at Northwest Community Hospital.
It features vibrant tropical fish painted on canvas, that when hung on the large column in the nurses station will give the image of the fish swimming in circles.
"We're trying to make the colors move," Ward says, as she points to an orange fish swimming after a school of smaller fish.
They also are finishing smaller paintings of sea creatures to be framed and hung outside every patient room, to give each space more personality and be less sterile.
The mural and the room paintings follow the sea world theme that hospital officials debuted nearly two years ago, with the opening of the Pediatric Emergency Room. Staffed by pediatric emergency specialists from Children's Memorial Hospital, it opened in May 2010 with the hospital's nine-story South Pavilion addition.
Throughout the addition, hospital officials looked to enhance the design with a healing atmosphere, and the pediatric department was no different. Whimsical sea creatures were added to heighten the kid-friendly atmosphere, as well as a 900-gallon fish tank.
Charlie Stevenson, project planning and development director for the hospital, says there were many discussions about finding the right theme that was appropriate for a wide age range.
"In pediatrics, it's hard to bridge the gap from infants to 18-year olds," Stevenson says. "We didn't want something cartoonish, as much as we wanted it to be whimsical."
Lewert and Ward eagerly accepted the challenge. Both are mothers of grown children, and have painted many murals for children's bedrooms in their commercial work. Lewert also teaches after school art to children at St. Theresa's School in Palatine.
In fact, some of her students' works will be hung in a hallway that connects the Pediatric ER with the inpatient unit. St. Theresa students will be the first to see their artwork displayed, in what Stevenson envisions to be a rotating exhibit, changing every six months to a year.
Lewert and Ward have worked together on murals for 13 years. Many were commissioned for model homes, at Boulder Ridge in Lake in the Hills and at Wynstone in North Barrington among others, as individual homes in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Crystal Lake and Inverness.
When the new home market slowed, the pair looked for places to volunteer their work. The pediatric unit at the hospital, they said, was a natural.
"It's all meant to engage the children," Lewert says, "and to be calming for them in uncertain situations."