Community Impact

Deliberate process led to diverse artwork at Randall Children’s Hospital

July 07, 2023

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in the foreground, two pregnant individuals, one facing left and the other facing right, covering their breasts. In the background, a large sun with purple and green mountains, and yellow foliage at the bottom of the painting.
Over one hundred cartoon faces of individuals of various skin colors, hair colors, hair styles, accessories, and poses, with a wavy yellow orange curved line across some of their faces
beige mural painting featuring colorful depictions of important historical figures, painted by Cassandra Swan, Tommiemc Davis, Kyra Watkins, Naomi Likayi, and Rachel Oleson
colorful painting with light green in the center of the painting, several colorful houses scattered all over the painting

The towering windows in the lobby of Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel set the tone for what designers and hospital officials wanted for the look and feel of the building. The light floods the space, giving it an inviting warmth, making the tower feel more like a hotel than a hospital.

Randall’s design committee wanted to put as much thought into what would go on the hospital’s walls as the building of those walls, so an art committee was formed. The group’s focus was to expand the art collection to the ninth floor and to better reflect the diversity of patients that Randall serves.

“A lot of family birth centers, like ours, feature photos of healthy babies from white, hetero normative families,” said Katie Dunn, coordinator for Randall’s clinical art therapy program. “We wanted to make sure the art came from diverse artists, that it reflected the richness of our patients' backgrounds and circumstances. Our research found that diverse representation supports inclusivity and comfort."

Katie was appointed to lead the committee that would find the artwork for Randall. She quickly decided to enlist the help of Cole Reed, a Portland artist, designer and entrepreneur. The two spent hours discussing the goals of the project, the committee, the hospital and her role.

Cole eventually signed onto the project, but with a caveat. She insisted that they work together as an equal team. "We cannot change the past, but we can invest in the possibilities of the future,” she told Katie. “And we can only do that together."

The addition of Cole brought a renewed passion to creating a different and more inclusive environment for the family birth center. The committee cast a wide net for artists and artwork. They prioritized working with individuals, rather than institutions that may consciously or unconsciously contribute to white and wealthy privilege.

They also prioritized cultural views and symbols. They established professional relationships with new community partners, including small women- and Black-owned businesses for printing, collaboration and framing. The result is a collection that is diverse and rich in subject matter and artistic style.

“Each piece is strong on its own, but they are stronger together,” Katie said. “The overarching theme of this work, equity and inclusion are not just the right things to do, they make our community exponentially better.”

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