PHOENIX [April 18, 2024] – On May 1, Phoenix Children’s will unveil a 407-foot commissioned mural that has transformed a heavily trafficked corridor into a captivating and exciting journey for children and their families. Nearly two years in the making, the art installation, called “Wonder And Wander” brings vibrant colors and imaginative designs to a major hospital hallway through which 70,000 children are transported each year.

The installation is a collaboration between Phoenix Children’s and RxART, a nonprofit organization that aims to help children heal through the power of visual art. Inspired by RxART’s mission, Phoenix Children’s Board Chair and RxART Board Member David Lenhardt worked closely with the organization to create an art installation at Phoenix Children’s Hospital – Thomas Campus. “Wonder And Wander” is the largest project ever completed by RxART.

“Our goal was not only to brighten a major corridor at Phoenix Children’s but also to reduce anxiety and create a calming environment for the thousands of children who are wheeled down this hall for surgery, imaging and other critical healthcare procedures,” said Lenhardt. “You can’t help but smile when you see this piece. I know it will make all the difference for kids battling illness or trauma who may need an extra dose of joy.”

His enthusiasm for the project was shared by the health system’s Children’s Advisory Board (CAB), a council of patients and siblings ages 12-18 whose perspectives directly impact the patient family experience. The CAB members had previously identified the hallway as an area of the hospital that needed to be more patient friendly and uplifting. They knew the artwork would breathe new life into the space and bring hope to kids.

Lenhardt worked alongside RxART founder, Diane Brown, to identify the right artist for Phoenix Children’s installation. They enlisted contemporary artist Shara Hughes, whose art has been displayed in museum exhibitions worldwide, to create the otherworldly landscape piece.

Hughes used colored pencil, oil pastel, watercolor, marker and crayon on paper – materials familiar to children – to create “Wonder And Wander.” The design was then enlarged and transferred to Acrovyn, a hospital-safe, custom wall-covering application.

“Sometimes, the installation feels immersive, like you are in the landscape, being hugged by the trees on either side and sometimes it is viewed as if you are a passenger looking outside of a window on one side,” said Hughes. “The drawing shifts in materials and perspective of what you can and can't see ahead and behind you. While the unknown is present in the drawings, I wanted it to feel like a safe, positive and hopeful space where kids could reflect, to find a moment of respite, and see a landscape change, move and grow. I wanted it to feel exciting and hopeful to move through.”

“Seeing our vision come to fruition in such an impactful way, for such an important purpose, has been such a rewarding experience,” said Lenhardt. “I am so grateful for RxART and especially for Shara, who put her heart and soul into creating the perfect piece for Phoenix Children’s and the families we serve.”

About Shara Hughes

Shara Hughes (b. 1981, Atlanta) uses dizzying brushwork, vibrant colors, and shifting perspectives to make paintings that defy many of the existing conventions associated with the landscape genre. Natural motifs and patterned elements recur throughout Hughes’s pictures: snake-like trees, floating moons, distorted reflections in bodies of water, and stippled night skies appear in various permutations, synchronized with harder-to-define forms in which abstract and representational impulses co-exist in unorthodox harmony. Shara Hughes has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg, Denmark (2023); Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (2022); Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2021–2022); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2021); Garden Museum, London (2021); Aspen Museum of Art, Colorado (2021); and Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2021). Recent group exhibitions include Open Ended: SFMOMA’s Collection, 1900 to Now, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (ongoing); Being in the World: The Tenth Anniversary of the Long Museum, Long Museum, Shanghai (2023); Nature humaine – Humaine nature, Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, France (2022–2023); among others. Also in 2018, her painting Narnia (2017) was acquired by Phoenix Art Museum, with funds provided by the Dawn and David Lenhardt Emerging Artist Acquisition Fund. Hughes lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

About RxART

The Mission of nonprofit RxART is to help children heal through the extraordinary power of visual art. RxART commissions established contemporary artists to transform children’s hospital settings into engaging and uplifting healing environments at no cost to the hospitals.