Canberra Hospital's new mural makes ward a brighter place

Canberra Hospital's new mural makes ward a brighter place

A long-awaited mural has been installed on the verandah outside the adolescent ward of the Canberra Hospital, bringing colour and hope to what could have been a sterile, dispiriting environment.

Local digital artist Paul Summerfield created the massive picture, River of Dreams, in consultation with the people who use the space, including the young patients and staff.

Kimberly Pocknall and artist Paul Summerfield in front of the verandah of the adolescent ward mural.

Kimberly Pocknall and artist Paul Summerfield in front of the verandah of the adolescent ward mural. Credit:Jay Cronan

The ward's frequent visitors provided input, giving them a stake in the project while ensuring the artwork appealed to its target audience.

Details and images are drawn from the hospital surroundings and then transformed, evoking a realm that is at once recognisable and strange.


Behind Summerfield's bold and beautiful mural is another man, whose financial backing made River of Dreams a reality.

Peter Munday, dealer principal of Lennock Motors, sponsored the Canberra Hospital Foundation initiative from start to finish.

"This wouldn't have happened without him and his huge commitment to make things better for the adolescent ward," said the hospital's arts' curator, Jenny McFarlane.

"His vision has inspired a lot of the comforts in this space."

Among the creatures and objects populating Summerfield's intimate portrait of the public place is a little yellow "Vee Dub", the artist's playful acknowledgement of Mr Munday's contribution.

Summerfield said the mural was "very personal" and filled with "little stories and hidden secrets", many prompted by the patients' reflections and suggestions.

From floating islands to cushiony cloud beds, an element of escapism runs through the depicted world.

McFarlane said there were references to three different meditation strategies in the cloud, river and train motifs.

She added being in hospital was stressful for the adolescents and "not the happiest time in their lives".

Kimberly Pocknall, 13, was visiting the ward because she had been "having blackouts and random rages".

The Yass High student said Summerfield's mural evoked her feelings of creativity.

"It's really unique and special and colourful," she said.

"It makes me think of the world and the story about it."

McFarlane said it was "really difficult to find work that's going to connect with the kids" but that River of Dreams did.

"Adolescents tend to get forgotten in the scheme of things," she said.

"They are not paediatrics and not adults."

She added Mr Munday "got that" and understood the importance of what the Canberra Hospital Foundation was doing.

The organisation welcomes donations to help improve the quality of life of all those who use the facilities.

Mary Lynn is a reporter for the Canberra Times and Chronicle

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