The Art of Healing – a donation comes full circle

Nanica Brown | February 26, 2017

In the Stillness - Julie deBoerIf you have ever spent time at one of Calgary’s hospitals you may have noticed the artwork on the walls. While they might seem aesthetic, these pieces actually play a very important role in healing as well - research has proven that a well-placed painting can shorten hospital stays, reduce the need for pain medication, improve patient experiences and comfort families.

Recently, a gift in honour of Philip and Harriet Libin’s 55th anniversary and their 75th birthdays allowed South Health Campus’ (SHC) Intensive Care Unit (ICU) the ability to outfit their family waiting room with beautiful pieces of artwork and gave one local artist some closure.

The Art Council at SHC used the gift made by the couple’s children and grandchildren to purchase pieces of art to decorate the family waiting room. The pieces that were selected included a painting by local artist, Julie deBoer.

For Julie, the commission also allowed her a way to give back to the health care system that had given her family so much. Two years ago her sister-in-law Jody was having serious gallbladder issues requiring emergency surgery. Unfortunately, complications post-surgery with a plugged pancreatic duct were the start of a long and painful eight months in hospital for Jody.

“The staff were so amazing. It is remarkable to live in this country where they don’t give up and there is no question about how much things cost or how the family will pay for treatment,” says Julie. 

During Jody’s care and treatment the family spent time in the ICUs in Foothills Medical Centre, Rockyview General Hospital and Peter Lougheed Centre. Family rooms at the hospitals became a home away from home.

Julie noticed that the environment of the rooms, especially the artwork, had a significant impact on her. “An artist myself, I took great comfort in one particular painting that depicts a prairie landscape with a road disappearing into the horizon,” says Julie. “I would imagine that Jody was healthy, walking on the road and this provided courage, comfort and hope during many long hours of waiting.”

It is all part of patient and family centred care says Rachel Taylor, manager of South Health Campus ICU. “Artwork allows families to look at something soothing,” she says. “Instead of a bland wall the art gives families and patients a place to step away and regroup. It’s especially important in critical care as situations can change very quickly.”

Sadly, Jody became even sicker and after an infection and kidney failure she passed away.  Despite the sadness during this time, the painting still provided comfort as Julie now pictured Jody heading on a new journey.

When she was commissioned to create the painting, Julie wanted to provide the same sense of comfort to families that she had received. The piece is called “In the Stillness” and currently hangs in the ICU at South Health Campus giving hope to others while they spend long hours waiting for their family member to heal. 

Julie deBoer is primarily a self-taught artist, who was exposed to art and the artistic process throughout her life by her mother, seasoned artist Ursula Pagenkopf. Although Julie has not pursued formal art education as an adult, she considers herself a perpetual student of the arts. Whether through local art workshops, online art resources, or relationships with other artists, Julie is an eager student who views art education as a life long pursuit. You can see her full work at

Filed under: Community Partners,South Health Campus,Donations,Art,Patient Care,Gifts in Recognition | Comment | Permalink
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