Susy B's Murals at Sick Kids

Contributed by Daniel Turner

For those of us with a cursory knowledge of art history, the idea of a patron seems mostly a dated concept relegated to the Medicis and popes of Renaissance Italy plus a few exceptions from the last century such as Diego Rivera's famously controversial work for Nelson Rockefeller and Frank Stella's paintings for T.O.'s own David Mirvish.

How unusual then for an artist nowadays to be given a series of commissions by a single patron, let alone for five years and counting as has been the case for Susy Bleasby's murals for the Hospital for Sick Children.

Like so many parents of children who have had the undesired but fortunate access to the excellent care of 'Sick Kids,' Steven Wise, president and CEO of KRG Insurance Group took his son to the hospital for emergency asthma care. It was his son who suggested the idea of brightening up the drab walls with colourful scenery, as a way to show his father's thanks and support.

Five years later, Wise's charitable foundation is not only still providing Bleasby with any artist's full-time dream job, but one which she finds healing and enriching, knowing that she provides so many young patients and their families with much-needed comfort and a healthy distraction in what could otherwise be a rather intimidating environment and situation.

On that note, the murals are definitely in a child-friendly style, developed by Susy over the years since graduating from the Vancouver Film School's animation program, but not in the usual 'kiddie art' manner of cuddly pink teddy bears and rainbows.

A general theme of nature imagery flows from one ward to the next. Sheep graze under canopies of trees, populated with birds and squirrels of every stripe; stars and clouds commingle before transitioning into a lake front of boys and girls building sand castles; seagulls perch on beach balls and palm branches close by, which in turn lead the viewer to underwater schools of sea-horses, dolphins and shellfish in snorkeling goggles.

With appropriate sensitivity to the staff and patients of the hospital, public visitors can have a look at many of the murals in person, or you can take a comprehensive tour online through Bleasby's website.

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