Panda Pediatrics has partnered with local artists to transform its waiting area into an art experience. An unveiling on Tuesday will welcome community members to check out the pediatric clinic’s new look.
Artist John Sebelius said he and Elizabeth Keever, Heartland Community Health Center’s chief development officer, bumped into each other a year ago during a Downtown Lawrence Final Friday. He said he mentioned to her that the Panda Pediatrics lobby needed some love and that local artists could pitch in.
Keever was on board, so they started fundraising and building their team of local creators, which includes parents of Panda Pediatrics patients as well as teenagers who were patients at Panda Pediatrics themselves.
As the pediatric clinic of Heartland, Panda Pediatrics accepts all patients regardless of income or insurance status. Sebelius, who served as project director as well as a contributing artist, said the goal was to create a more comfortable and welcoming space for all.
The artists used ink, acrylic, spray paint, wire and paper materials and opted to focus on local flora, fauna and landscapes to highlight Lawrence’s nature. Friendly pandas are painted on one area with large walls and three dimensional butterflies pop off walls all around the space.
“The waiting room spaces have been thoughtfully designed to provide an interactive and welcoming atmosphere for families, encouraging a sense of comfort during their visit to the clinic,” Sebelius said via email. “By incorporating painting, sculpture, educational games, and light installations, we aimed to activate the minds and bodies of waiting families, turning the waiting time into an enjoyable and educational experience.”
Keever said the project with Panda Pediatrics was inspired by feedback from patients and families as well as insight from health care studies that said receiving medical care can be intimidating for many.
The majority of patients feel some sort of emotional distress in primary care settings. Guidelines that came with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic amplified that burden, especially in a pediatric setting as toys had to be removed and social distancing was enforced, Keever explained.
Filling those spaces with positive depictions, such as nature, can decrease stress and even improve employee satisfaction in the workplace, Keever said she and her team learned while researching. That can have long term benefits for patients, too, which is why the project prioritizes a pediatric clinic.
“We are already seeing the impact of this work,” Keever said via email. “We recently got a message from a provider that a family asked if they could stick around after their appointment to enjoy and play in the space. That early positive experience in a healthcare setting can make a lifelong impact on that child’s relationship with their health and willingness to see a doctor.”
Like Sebelius, fellow contributing artists Angie Pickman and Jeromy Morris are parents whose children currently visit or previously visited Panda Pediatrics.
“The creative approach was very fluid between Angie Pickman, Jeromy Morris and I; trading pieces back and forth as we worked,” Sebelius said via email.
The trio also worked with three teen artists, including Opal Morris, Milo Bitters and Maya Smith, who have been Panda Pediatrics patients themselves. Artist Jeremy Rockwell assisted with the installation process.
The unveiling is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8 at Panda Pediatrics, 1803 W. Sixth St. The event is free to the public, and attendees will be welcome to experience the new installation for themselves.