A painting made by community artists
By El Webb

From Clinical to Colorful: Volunteer Artists Install Paintings Throughout UNM Hospital

A group of four pose underneath new artWhen walking through the halls of The University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital and other children-friendly areas of the UNM Health system, instead of plain white walls, eyes will now be drawn to color and joy.

Splashes of Hope, a New York based nonprofit organization comprising volunteer artists, recently installed several ceiling tiles, wall murals and panels depicting hot air balloons throughout children’s areas in UNM Hospital.

“These paintings have been transformational,” said Jennifer Kean, UNM Hospital outpatient child life supervisor. “It’s amazing to see an area come to life. It really livens up an area and makes it a happier and a more colorful place to come to.”

The nonprofit has “splashed” hospitals in all 50 U.S. states. They also have an international presence, having installed art in hospitals in France, Egypt, Nicaragua, Italy and more countries.

“They’re in thousands of hospitals around the world, splashing different areas in different hospitals,” Kean said.

Their first visit to UNM Hospital was back in 2008, and they’ve since installed multiple art pieces throughout.


During the most recent visit last month, the circular entrance in the children’s waiting room in the Pediatric Neurology department lobby was transformed into a purple hot air balloon in the mountains.

After walking through the circular entrance, children can now gaze at the two murals depicting funny animals traversing across the New Mexican landscape beneath a sky full of hot air balloons. Children can make a game out of looking for a skateboarding moose wearing a cape, a monkey painting at an easel, a roller skating pig, an elephant on a motorcycle and many more.

“A lot of the paintings have different scenery, different things to find,” Kean said. “They could be used for a game of ‘I Spy.’”

Other areas in UNM Hospital that have been splashed include the Children’s Heart Center, the pediatric emergency department and the sixth floor lobby. The Splashes of Hope team has also installed colorful ceiling tiles in the sedation clinic.

Kean said the murals and art pieces are one way to bring a smile to children and their families, diverting their attention from the reasons they are visiting the hospital.

When children are lying in bed, they can still look up at the tiles and enjoy the artwork. It gives everybody something to talk about and not focus on why they’re here. It’s really an asset to our hospital
Jennifer Kean, UNM Hospital Outpatient Child Life Supervisor

“When children are lying in bed, they can still look up at the ceiling tiles and enjoy the artwork,” Kean said. “It gives everybody something to talk about and not focus on why they’re here. It’s really an asset to our hospital.”

In addition to providing a potential distraction for young patients and their families, Kean said the colorful murals and panels are also uplifting for hospital staff.

“I really like the health care heroes mural that they just painted. It’s so powerful because they started it painting it through COVID, at a time when it was hard for health care workers just to come to work,” Kean said. “It was a trying time, so this piece of artwork is just amazing.”

Kean said the New Mexico sponsor for Splashes of Hope is Robert Bigler, who originally got involved with the nonprofit in memory of his late wife, Gail.

“He’ll reach out to me every so often and ask me if I have seen anywhere that needs to be splashed,” Kean said. “I send him pictures of the areas and he does his magic and works with Heather [Buggee, Splashes of Hope founder], and we go from there.”

“We’re just so thankful to have this partnership with Splashes of Hope,” Kean added. “They’ve brought so much to our hospital, and we can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done.”

Categories: Children's Hospital, Community Engagement, News You Can Use, UNM Hospital