Inside Children's Blog

The art of building child-friendly hospital space

Ron Beahn and Alison Rich, from Akron Public Schools, discuss art selections.

Ron Beahn and Alison Rich, from Akron Public Schools, discuss art selections.

Akron Children’s new medical tower will not only serve the healthcare needs of the region’s children, it will continue the hospital’s decades-long tradition of providing an outlet for their creative talents.

When the new building opens in 2015, more than 400 new pieces of colorful, child-friendly art will adorn its walls. The art will match the building’s backyard theme, as well as the related themes of the individual department floors.

Of the total, 250 pieces will be children’s art.

Akron Children’s art consultant, Ron Beahn,  is selecting, framing and installing the children’s art.

A popular watercolorist, Beahn, who curated Goodyear’s $6 million art collection, owns a framing store in Cuyahoga Falls and has been director of the Boston Mills Arts Festival for many years.

As the hospital’s art consultant, he has been responsible for selecting and installing children’s art when expansion, department moves and new pediatrician offices have created a need.

Planning for artwork

Beahn began working with architectural drawings and HKS designer Becky Baumer in August 2013 to develop a plan that defined what art would be needed and the costs.  Once the plan was approved, Beahn sent emails to art teachers at 119 northeast Ohio schools to invite them to participate.

The need to match art to the themes created a challenge for Beahn.

“Teachers enter the school year with a set curriculum dictated by the state,” he said. “You can’t dictate to the schools what you want. It was difficult to go to the teachers and ask for a treehouse painting, for example.”

Although he didn’t exclude any school that couldn’t comply, he’s using the themes as parameters when selecting the art.

“My goal is to take at least one piece of art from every school that made the effort to participate,”Beahn said.

Out of the 119 schools, 55 responded. Beahn has been scheduling visits to the schools to see what the children have created. To date, he’s purchased 65 pieces from 20 schools. High school students whose artwork is selected receive a $50 gift card, while elementary and middle school students get a $25 gift card.

With the building construction ahead of schedule, Beahn is pushing to have all the art in hand by the end of May.

In addition to the children’s art, 150 photographs, reproduced in 16×20 or 30×40 formats, will be installed in theme-appropriate areas of the building.

These photographs will be selected from among those submitted by employees in the Building on the Promise Photo Contest and will have a label identifying the photographer.  Each employee can submit up to 6 entries per theme, with no limit on the number of images that can ultimately be displayed for an individual employee.

Art for outdoor space

Rendering of the outdoor amphitheater

Rendering of the outdoor amphitheater

Outside the new building, 3 areas have been designated for outdoor sculptures. Beahn has reached out to artists in northeast Ohio to request drawings of their concept, a personal bio, an image of their past work, and a cost including installation.

“Materials can be anything from steel to concrete to stone,” said Beahn. “What’s important is how the artist uses the material to capture the vision of the hospital and its mission, while appealing to children and teens.”

As a place for the artists to begin, Beahn shared the landscaper’s vision for the 3 locations:

  • Main entry drop-off and amphitheatre – This space was designed as an opportunity to incorporate colorful and interactive sculpture.
  • Southeast corner of the building at the main lobby – This highly visible space will be suitable for an arrangement of smaller pieces, with the landscaping designed around the art.
  • ED Entry – This space is intended for staff respite, so it can be geared to an older audience.

Beahn and the hospital’s selection committee will make the final decision on the photographs and sculptures.