Sea otters are my favorite,” a little girl said to Meredith Stafford-Chapman as she touched up a vibrant ocean scene on a previously blank section of wall in the Children’s Home & Lemieux Family Center’s Pediatric Specialty Hospital. Stafford-Chapman, the Volunteer and Outreach Manager for the Children’s Home, initiated a mural project to beautify the entrances to the hospital units on three floors of the hospital. The young patient proceeded to tell her all about sea otters and why they are special, while her parents listened, amused.
“It has been such a wonderful experience planning [the murals], finishing them and watching everyone’s reactions to them,” said Stafford-Chapman. “It really improved the space. Personally and professionally, I feel this was one of the highlights of
Stafford-Chapman graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 2007 and went on to study art and business at Hollins University in Virginia. She moved to Seattle after college, where she worked at the Frye Art Museum, which introduced her to the nonprofit world and continued to foster her love for art. She moved back to Pittsburgh in 2016 and started working for The Children’s Home, coordinating volunteer activities and large corporate volunteer groups.
Established in 1893, the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh was originally focused on adoption, but the organization has expanded to include its pediatric specialty hospital and Child’s Way, a daycare center for medically-fragile children.
The mural project allowed Stafford-Chapman to put her artistic skills to work while creating a meaningful project for a team of corporate volunteers from PNC and PPG. She started by sketching three paint-by-number-style nature scenes: a cow pasture for the first floor, the ocean scene for the second and a western wildlife landscape for the third. She then projected and traced them on the walls, so that the volunteers could later come in and paint them.
At the end of the project, Stafford-Chapman added color and detail. She deemed the project complete in March 2020, just one day before the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Before we did the mural projects, there were just black walls outside the hospital units. And when it is a kid’s first time in the hospital, it can really be a scary place,” said Stafford-Chapman. “We wanted to create something that would bring some bright color and energy into the space to welcome patients into the building.”