Art Imitates Life on the Pediatrics Floor

4-year-old Addison MacLellan's best friends all have 4 legs. Kobe, Bella and Coco are her family's dogs. Their newest puppy, a boxer named Bruin, is training to be her service dog.

Addison MacLellan and her newest best friend, Bruin.

"For Addison, it's all about dogs," says her mom, Atria MacLellan.

When Addison goes to the hospital, the pups have to stay behind. It's one reason the art collection at Cedars-Sinai makes their frequent hospital trips a little easier. Addison was born with a number of complicated health conditions, including chronic kidney disease. Atria, Addison and her dad, Darren MacLellan, have been to the hospital often, and they know the art collection well. 

"We're going to see the doggies, and the dog prints, and the silly faces. Are you ready to see the silly faces?" Atria often says to comfort Addison during the 40-minute trip to Cedars-Sinai from their home in Arcadia. "Talking about the pictures she loves helps keep her mind busy and distracts her when we're on our way to the hospital."

The paw prints that track along the walls between rooms are among Addison's favorites. She loves the William Wegman photos of Weimaraners dressed up as humans. Atria often points out the farmer dogs dressed in plaid and overalls. 

"We tell her, one day we're going to own a farm and have all the animals in one place," she says. "It's nice to see the doggie farmers and imagine a happy future with her."

Addison points to the dogs dressed up like firefighters and paramedics and says, "They're the ones who take care of me."

 It's the next best thing to having her dogs by her side.

Art can sometimes help bring the outdoors indoors. For example, clouds, birds and leaves cover the ceilings and walls of some of the rooms decorated with site-specific artwork provided by RxArt, a nonprofit that partners with hospitals and notable contemporary artists nationwide. Other rooms are more whimsical works, like one with blue, pink and white elephants. Artwork is also an important motivator to get kids like Addison up and out of bed. Skateboards are mounted low on walls to encourage kids to touch and play with them. Plenty of pictures are hung at kids' eye level.

Skateboards created by Andy Warhol liven up the Pediatrics Floor.

"The art on the ceiling gets Addison really excited. She likes to see the elephant room and the cloud room, and it's really important to keep Addison mobile," Atria says. "Just having enough to see out in the hallway really helps."

Bringing the familiar into the hospital is part of the plan for the artwork on the pediatrics floor, says John T. Lange, Cedars-Sinai's curator. Bright, colorful and recognizable prints from favorite children's books, like Dr. Seuss and Curious George, deck the walls. Fun, bold and eye-popping works, like a mural by Kenny Scharf—the "silly faces" Addison and her family enjoy—were also selected because they brighten and lighten up the environment.

"Hospitals can be cold, sterile and scary places," says Lange. "We looked for pieces that have the same kinds of qualities we think kids need when it comes to their care—humor and heart."

Art can provide comfort or a much-needed distraction, Lange says. And sometimes, it can stand in for your furry, 4-legged best friends.