As a place of treatment for kids and teens struggling with severe emotional problems, UT’s Kobacker Center often serves families as a gateway to hope. Now, thanks to the imagination of staffers and the creativity of UT art students, that gate has a fresh new look.
“Recent satisfaction surveys sent a clear message that families were unhappy with the appearance of the lobby area,” said Ginny York, mental health administrator in the Department of Psychiatry. “One family in particular stated they contemplated leaving before even being seen and explained they questioned the clinician’s ability based on the appearance of the lobby.”
A palette of restful colors and new furnishings were part of the prescription; another visual component blossomed when the center’s unit-based council decided to enlist the talents of the UT Art Department.
“We had limited finances for this renovation,” said Vickie Geha, administrator, ambulatory services and behavioral clinics. “The first round of ideas from their faculty and students took a while, but all of a sudden things jumped and became very exciting.
“We initially wanted something for the inpatient unit, but I think the lobby is a nice place to showcase student artwork. Karen [Roderick-Lingeman, associate lecturer] and her husband [Tom Lingeman, professor of art] were fired up about the project.”
From an original proposal of a painted mural, the project quickly went off in a more tactile direction, said Roderick-Lingeman, who’s also a UT alumna. “I predominantly teach ceramics, art education and 3-D design, so of course I wanted to do something related if we could.”
Her students were enthusiastic; the ultimate art installation is centered around their chosen theme of nature in air, water and earth. An arrangement of 36 ceramic tiles celebrates those aspects of the natural world while complementing the colors of the walls and textures of the furnishings. Birds soar, rain patters and leaves sway in a wealth of subtle detail that Roderick-Lingeman said creates interactive possibilities: “I’ve talked with the Art Education Program about having a student map out the mural and make worksheets for the kids who come here, kind of like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Find the dragonfly or the three snowflakes, for instance.”
All participants expressed particular satisfaction with the collaborative nature of the project, said Tammy Cerrone, clinical performance improvement coordinator. “It’s amazing how everything came together so well from the different parts of the University. The kids are going to like them, too. It’s a unique work for a unique building with a unique vision.”