ArtWorks News

Cincinnati Children’s Unveils Mural at New Critical Care Building

Left: Early design photo of “Fountain of Life” mural. Middle Top: Deja Pennington, 18, was one of the youth apprentices who worked on the mural. Middle Bottom: Local youth apprentices with ArtWorks, including several from Avondale, worked on the mural. Right: “Fountain of Life” mural is in the main lobby of the Critical Care Building at Cincinnati Children’s. Photos Courtesy of Kolar Design and Cincinnati Children’s


When the emergency department at the new Critical Care Building opens this fall at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, patients and families will be greeted by a huge, colorful mural called the “Fountain of Life.” It’s 27 feet tall by 15 feet wide.

“My hope is that people will walk in and see it and say, ‘I feel at home, I feel uplifted, and I feel hopeful,’ ” said Michael Fisher, president & CEO of Cincinnati Children’s. “I think this mural represents all of that and more.”

The mural pays homage to a popular landmark, the Tyler Davidson Fountain, which has stood on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati since 1871.

“This depiction at Cincinnati Children’s centers around ‘The Lady’ who is the central nurturing figure in a home environment that serves as a place of comfort, collaboration, discovery and safety for everyone,” said Holly Risch, lead mural designer with ArtWorks. “At the bottom of the mural, the river provides life and sustenance. Cincinnati Children’s works every day to offer what this mural promises – a place of hope and healing, where all kids can pursue their potential.”

The mural is a collaborative project of Cincinnati Children’s, Kolar Design, and ArtWorks. Among the artists who contributed were Risch, Jim Effler, Nicki Deux, Kerri Bram, and five local youth apprentices, including several from the Avondale neighborhood. Xavier McDaniel, Miah Grant, Audrey Ballard, D’Airion McCullough, and Deja Pennington range in age from 14 to 21, and the apprentices worked for over eight weeks in 2020. A second set of youth apprentices, which include Samara Bill, Liza Vologzhanin, Ria Mittal and Audrey Ballard, finalized the project over four weeks in 2021, led by teaching artist Kerri Bram.

The original concept was developed as a small painting. The work was then scaled up in large form onto parachute cloth, which is a non-woven type of fabric. Each section of parachute cloth was painted, and the pieces were installed onto the building’s brick surface.

“When we were painting it, we were working on individual squares that were separated into pieces,” said Pennington, 18, a youth apprentice. “To see it all come together in one big piece is just amazing. We all worked really hard, and I just think the finished product looks so good.”

The Critical Care Building, which will encompass 632,500 square feet and include 249 beds, is set to open in November 2021. The $600 million investment will feature pediatric, cardiac, and neonatal intensive care units along with the new emergency department.

In addition to the Fountain of Life mural, the Critical Care Building will include more than 1,100 pieces of art. The works were created by 34 local and national artists – with the help of more than 500 patients, families, and staff at Cincinnati Children’s plus students from 15 schools in Greater Cincinnati.

“The mural supports the overall concept and theme of the building called ‘Kaleidoscope,’ which expresses the idea that when people and elements unique and special on their own come together, they can create something even greater and more transformative,” said Mary Dietrich, managing director at Kolar Design, whose team is the artwork program curator for the Critical Care Building. “This mural expresses the theme through its view of community and family life.”

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization collaborates with community organizations and residents, businesses, governments, foundations and nonprofits to build creative works of art that bolster the region’s global reputation as an arts destination. ArtWorks employs professional artists who inspire and mentor diverse teams of youth, ages 14-21, helping them build 21st century career-readiness skills. These teams have completed more than 14,000 public and private art projects in its 25 years, including more than 200 permanent outdoor murals.