Mural artist Susy Bleasby has seen a lot of boring hospital walls. Since her own mother had been diagnosed with Leukemia in Nov. 2002, she had spent many days in Toronto hospitals, staring at the typically bland and dull colours that are supposed to be calming for patients. So when Susy was asked to liven up the walls in the Emergency Department (ED) at Sick Kids as part of a renovation project, she couldn’t grab her brushes fast enough.

The redevelopment came as part of a generous gift from Steven Wise, president and CEO of KRG Insurance Group and KRG Children’s Charities, in appreciation of the treatment that his son received in the ED. He had specifically requested that the renovation include murals to make the space more child-friendly.

With paint donated from Beauti-tone, Susy started with just one wall in the Atrium entrance into Emergency and had painted colourful, smiling fish. The reaction was immediate and so positive it surprised even her. The surrounding walls then looked so bare, that she continued painting. Susy continued to transform the entire department with her brilliant, happy and whimsical designs. Word spread quickly and soon Susy was fielding calls from other department throughout the hospital and has been a constant part of Sick Kids ever since!

“The more I do, the more I get asked to do because anyone can see the difference it makes is amazing. And all it takes to transform an area from dull to “wow” is a bit of paint and imagination.”

Children are very visual by nature, and the right environment can reduce stress and fears. “To see the face of a child light up when they round the corner and stare in wonder and delight at the colourful scene before them is priceless,” Says Susy. “No longer are they in an unsettling medical environment, but deeply immersed in a place of magic.”

Children quickly warm up to Susy and often suggest animals to include or colours to use. “I’m the live entertainment while I’m down here,” laughs Susy. “I’m not a doctor or someone medical and the kids love seeing someone creating art somewhere totally unexpected – in a hospital.”

What was supposed to be a short project has turned into years of work. The Sick Kids Foundation is in the process of putting together an artist-in-residence proposal, seeking private and corporate donations so that Susy can continue her work at the hospital and keep bringing much needed smiles to the patients, parents and staff here. “Whenever I see a blank hallway I see endless possibility,” she says. At Sick Kids, many of us share her vision.