‘Everyday Joy’ murals at Children’s Hospital honor Mollie Tibbetts

A series of murals in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, entitled Everyday Joy, aim to celebrate the idea of the joy and beauty found in daily life and honor the memory of UI student Mollie Tibbetts.

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‘Everyday Joy’ murals at Children’s Hospital honor Mollie Tibbetts

Artist Tilly Woodward holds the book Everyday Joy which explores the process of creating the murals during a meet and greet for the new art instillation Everyday Joy in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. Over 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of Mollie Tibbetts.

Artist Tilly Woodward holds the book Everyday Joy which explores the process of creating the murals during a meet and greet for the new art instillation Everyday Joy in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. Over 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of Mollie Tibbetts.

Katie Goodale

Artist Tilly Woodward holds the book Everyday Joy which explores the process of creating the murals during a meet and greet for the new art instillation Everyday Joy in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. Over 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of Mollie Tibbetts.

Katie Goodale

Katie Goodale

Artist Tilly Woodward holds the book Everyday Joy which explores the process of creating the murals during a meet and greet for the new art instillation Everyday Joy in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. Over 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of Mollie Tibbetts.

Charlie Peckman, Senior Reporter

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Room 1862-1 in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics division was quiet with the lull of conversation Thursday evening as robust fluorescent light illuminated five panels of art. Bright colors — pinks, yellows, and even lime green — were used together in the panels of the “Everyday Joy” mural project to invoke a feeling of deep-seeded contentment.

The installation, created to celebrate the idea of joy and beauty found in daily life, carries a secondary yet equally important meaning: honoring the life of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, who died in 2018. 

For project orchestrator Tilly Woodward, curator of academic and community outreach at Grinnell College Museum of Art, the topic of finding happiness in “the small things” is a simple, albeit salient, topic. Around 300 kids ended up working on the project.

“I wanted kids to connect with the idea of everyday joy and also pay Mollie’s spirit forward,” Woodward said. “I just feel really privileged and was so impressed with the kids and how beautiful and heartfelt their contributions were.”

Katie Goodale
Artist Tilly Woodward poses for a portrait during a meet and greet for the new art instillation Everyday Joy in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. Over 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of Mollie Tibbetts.

These contributions, psychiatry Associate Professor Hanna Stevens said, were made possible by teenagers in the dialectical behavior-therapy program. The location of the panels themselves, Stevens added, pays additional tribute to Tibbetts, who was studying to become a child psychologist.

“We were able to get started, thanks very much, to Mollie’s mom Laura Calderwood,” Stevens said. “She wanted to honor Mollie’s interest in child psychology and asked us, ‘What do you need for this space?’ We wanted to create something that could be of use but also be representative of Mollie.”

As Calderwood gazed at the sea of shapes and colors in front of her, she shared an anecdote from Mollie’s childhood and said it felt appropriate to honor her daughter’s memory with an art installation.

“Mollie went through a phase when she was young of painting and drawing,” Calderwood said. “Then she got into theatre arts — she was in six plays starting in junior high. She became an actress. I remember when she graduated [high school], she left a book for people to write, ‘Where do you think Mollie will be in 10 years?’ Some talked about her psychology practice, some said she would be married with three kids. Mine was the only entry that said she would be on a Broadway stage.”

Katie Goodale
One of the five murals hangs during a meet and greet for the new art instillation Everyday Joy in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. Over 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of Mollie Tibbetts.

Although Room 1862-1 is windowless, psychiatry Clinical Professor Peter Daniolos said the location has become “windowed through the expression of art.”

“This is a therapeutic space, and it has never looked like this, where art wraps around those who are in it,” Daniolos said. “There is so much to be said about each contribution, and I love the idea of leaving your mark on the wall.”

The Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Fund for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital sponsored the project. Both parties plan to incorporate more panels in the future. 

Stevens said these collaborative art pieces will positively affect patients and their families, and will “permanently enhance” the spaces they inhabit. 

“This art really does invoke joy,” Tibbetts’ aunt Kim Calderwood said. “Mollie was a joyful girl, and I think these panels are a wonderful way to honor her memory.”

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