FEATURE | Posted Aug. 7, 2013

Jungle animals, jellyfish and joy, oh my!

Pediatric infusion center’s new murals are just what the doctor ordered

The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Pediatric Infusion Center walls have transformed into whimsical mysteries of the jungle and vibrant depths of the sea. Through the magic of local muralist Kent Peterson, the rich colors and imaginative illustrations bring joy to everyone who walks into the clinic.

“How the kids react when they see it is testimony to what a difference this kind of artwork makes,” Peterson said recently, as he painted a thin black smile on a young chimpanzee.

Surprises for the children each day

Arriving after the children have left the clinic, Peterson worked late into the evening, leaving captivating embellishments for everyone to discover in the morning.

“I’ve gotten emails from the nurses and notes on the wall about how much they love it and how often the kids are commenting about it,” said Peterson. 

Peterson spent a little over a month on the project, beginning first with his under-water mural, which faces the infusion isolation rooms.

"Being isolated from the rest of the room can be very difficult, and the mural really helps draw the patients out,” said Melinda Beckham, the center’s pediatric charge nurse. 

Kent Peterson“My mom passed of cancer (brain) three years ago. Getting the chance to do something in a cancer-care setting was near and dear to my heart.”
— Artist Kent Peterson

With a combination of acrylic, latex-house and artist paints, Peterson worked from the background forward, placing animals and critters as the intricate scenery emerged. For inspiration, Peterson used his electronic tablet to find photos of real jungle animals and sea critters.

About the UC Davis Pediatric Infusion Center

The outpatient infusion center is staffed by registered nurses, medical assistants and support staff. Many of the registered nurses carry nationally recognized certifications in pediatric oncology.

The center’s spacious and open area allows nurses to provide care for their patients in a relaxed and fun environment.

Learn more.

“What he has done is spectacular,” said Jeanine Stiles, the cancer center’s associate director for administration. “His work really livens up the center for our pediatric patients, and makes it more kid-friendly.”

Transformation from plain to alive with fun and color

Peterson’s palette began with plain white walls, some of them cluttered with medical equipment. Now, visits to the infusion center offer patients and families medical help against a supportive backdrop of color to spark a rainbow of imagination.

Before setting to work in a smaller infusion area, Peterson asked himself, “What can we do to this room?”

Creating the feel of a real sea cove, Peterson painted a beachscape on the back wall and sea birds above each treatment bay.

“The idea was to tie it into the under-the-water theme,” said Peterson.

“It's colorful and kids need to see themselves in this situation. They need to look at something happy," said Jesse Jam, 23, of Carmichael, who is being treated for a recurrence of leukemia after first being diagnosed at age 18. “Emotions are a big part of the treatment. Children need to find some color in it.”

Peterson was delighted with the opportunity to share his work in a cancer-care setting for children. For him, it was more than another job.

“My mom passed of cancer (brain) three years ago,” he said. “Getting the chance to do something in a cancer-care setting was near and dear to my heart.”