Bringing peace and beauty to the sick: Kohala Hospital adds art display to emergency waiting room
By Jan Wizinowich Special to West Hawaii Today

NORTH KOHALA — Thanks to recently completed murals by artist Patrick Ching, Kohala Hospital’s new emergency waiting room is an oasis of beauty and calm. “I’m really into the psychology of what the people are going through when they are here. I use colors that are calming and soothing with horizontal lines,” Ching said.

“I’m really into the psychology of what the people are going through when they are here. I use colors that are calming and soothing with horizontal lines,” Ching said.

The project is a collaboration anchored by the Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation (KHCF) and includes funding and support from Kohala Hospital and a Century 21 grant through Kohala High School.

“Another aspect of our collaboration was to fund a portion that would support our students’ after-school internship with a high quality mentor such as Patrick Ching,” Fern White said, a Kohala High School STEM and AP English teacher. “The students spent time with Patrick shadowing and painting some of the images as directed, and learning about the real life aspect of what it takes to do what he does as an artist.”

To begin preparing for the project, Ching shared ideas with the KHCF board.

“I talked with board members to see what’s important to them and what kind of ideas they had, and then ideas I came up with,” he explained.

Ching spent many hours visiting places he intended to include.

“I went around taking photographs and then I looked at them to conjure up images with the space. Then I came up with small watercolor sketches to scale,” he said, sharing them with board members as the project unfolded.

“The areas in the paintings are kind of in the directions that you see them,” he added pointing to the painting of Pololu on the north wall.

The paintings seem to emerge from the walls, as if being soaked up from the beauty that is Kohala.

“Rather than a rectangle, I try to bring the colors of the room into the painting. I leave a little of my first layers of color showing along the edges and notice that they are different than the color the mural ends up being. It makes people’s eyes dance and it joins all the different parts of the picture together,” Ching said. “I also used the wall colors, like this purplish blue, in the mural so that all ties it together.”

And keeping with a forest theme, the murals also engulf prosaic reminders of modern life.

“You do your sketches, but when you come to the actual wall there might be things that you don’t count on. I tried to make that corner disappear,” Ching said, pointing to the Pololu painting, “and I noticed this big red exit sign I didn’t plan for, so I added these two red birds at the end. When you’re walking out of the emergency room you get to enjoy the dance of red and greens.”

The whole effect is one of peace and healing.

“In the three weeks since Patrick’s been painting it’s already made a huge difference. Our mission was to create a healing environment,” Kohala Hospital Administrator Gino Amar said.

Ching got to experience that firsthand.

“If I did get in their way, I’d give them a paint brush,” Ching joked. “I got to see it have the desired effects on the people coming in. They were all under stress for different reasons. And even the guy with the high blood pressure said, ‘Oh that’s just what I needed.’”

The emergency waiting room is the icing on the cake of a long concerted effort on the part of KHCF, who raised funds for the addition of the new waiting room and the creation of a state of the art emergency room that looks like it could be the sick bay for the USS Enterprise.

The new emergency room came to fruition through the efforts of many. For almost six years, KHCF members collaborated with Kohala Hospital and conducted many fund-raisers.

“The really big fund raising started in 2012, when we knew this (new emergency room) was actually going to happen. We really went into gear. We did golf tournaments that were extremely successful, and we had big community events at Kahua Ranch with 400 people,” board member Betty Meinardus said.

With inimitable Kohala style, support for the project also came from grassroots sources.

“We had people that would give $10 but now feel they are part of the hospital. People gave a lot of money. It was really amazing; all the people in the community were so generous. This is our community hospital and community supported emergency department,” she added.