LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Twenty displays of student artwork in bright colors, cheerful pictures and words of encouragement decorate Lakewood Ranch Medical Center after a competition involving nine East Manatee County schools.
Artists and schools will be recognized at a 5:30 p.m. awards ceremony Thursday in the Women and Children's Center Lobby. Winners will earn cash prizes for their school art departments.
"It truly looks like an art gallery," said Jo Pumphrey, director of inpatient services and pediatrics. "They're absolutely phenomenal. When you realize it was a third-grader who made this, you're in awe.
"We truly have some artistic children in our community. They're very bright and cheerful. It makes the whole department smile even more than we already are."
Staff specialist Tanya Prete said LRMC promotes expressive art activities.
"In my opinion, the most important thing the artwork can do is inspire children to create," Prete said. "It provides distraction and helps you to process your own feelings. They can express their feelings and put it into whatever medium they are given."
Jennifer Bryan, director of marketing, said the displays make her job easier.
"The minute hospital visitors, staff members and patients see the artwork on the walls, their faces light up," Bryan said. "Almost everyone who has seen the artwork has commented on how bright and happy the pediatric unit is."
Designs range from glittery cupcakes to animal illustrations. All are cheerful and colorful.
"One thing we didn't anticipate is that the artwork seems to take patients' and parents' minds off whatever it is that brought them here," said Bryan.
"It's not that the pictures we had up before were sad, but it's just to know the children in the community took the time to make these great pictures for our department," Pumphrey said. "You can see that they've been painted by children. They are very age-appropriate for pediatrics so they relate to those pictures much more than the pictures we had on our walls that were by just a painter.
"They relate to them by pointing, 'Oh, it's a mouse or a cat or a rainbow or a sun!' They're delightful."
School submitting entries include Lakewood Ranch High School, Braden River Middle School, Imagine School at Lakewood Ranch, Freedom Elementary, Bashaw Elementary, Rowlett Magnet Elementary, Braden River Elementary, Tara Elementary and Willis Elementary.
"This particular area of the hospital was opened in response to the community's cries for pediatric services in the area, which is why we felt it was fitting to involve school children from the community by asking them to help decorate their hospital," Pumphrey said.
The academic artists were asked to create art they would want to see if they were in the hospital.
Artwork will be displayed until fall when another contest will be held. The medical center intends to hold competitions twice a year to keep the community engaged and provide patients and staff with new artwork to enjoy, Bryan said.
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7027, or tweet@DeeGrahamBH.