Silvio Irilli, the artist who transforms pediatric wards into magical marine universes

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«As a child I had a dream: I wanted to be a painter, I dreamed it would become my job and it is a great emotion for me to think that I have fulfilled that desire in such a special way.».

To speak is Silvio Irilli, artist and founder of Painted Hospitals (, an artistic and charitable project born with the intent of transform the hospital environment in a welcoming and reassuring place, especially for the little ones.

It was 2012, in fact, when theGemelli Polyclinic Hospital in Rome turns to Silvio Irilli, known at the time as an illustrator of numerous prestigious magazines, to assign him a task as important as it is unexpected: decorate a corridor in the Radiotherapy department Oncological with his drawings.

This first work, financed in record time through a fundraiser, will be only the beginning of a long work that will lead to the entire decoration of the bunker of the Gemelli Oncological Radiotherapy Department through a series of large panels depicting the seabed populated by dolphins, turtles and colorful fish.

The intervention collects something like this great success among doctors, patients and public opinion to push Silvio Irilli to give life to a real project that he will call Painted Hospitals and that today it has more than 3500 square meters of Italian medical facilities, from Novara to Messina, decorate with his creations.

«When a child enters the hospital, his dreams partially stop – says the artist – through my project, on the other hand, I want to give back to little patients the desire to dream. It is not just a question of aesthetically decorating a wall but of create a real emotional path that can embrace them and with which they can interact. Recently, for example, we have also created a table in the shape of a sailing ship on which children can draw imagining they are on board a galleon».

So the generally cold environment of the hospital turns into a fantastic and colorful universe, in which i little patients can find their smile again e defeat fear which often accompanies hospitalization and the therapies to which they are subjected.

All this is made possible by a long and delicate work. «It is as if the work were done twice – says Silvio Irilli – for logistical reasons it is not possible to paint directly on site, creating construction sites that would hinder the carrying out of hospital activities. Like a tailor who has to make a dress, I take the measurements of the environment and bring them back to my studio where I make the work. Then the magic happens: if on Friday the ward is white and gray, on the following Monday, in just 3 days, the environment is transformed into an illustrated scenario, under the amazed eyes of the medical staff and patients.».

To make the project even more special, the choice to use as single funding channel the free contribution of non-profit organizations, associations, foundations or individuals, so as not to burden the National Health System.

Among the latest projects carried out by Painted Hospitals, also the tunnel that connects the Gaslini of Genoa to the private beach of the structure. “The space was very spoiled – continues the artist – but observing the exposed pipes along the walls I immediately had the idea that that corridor could turn into a long submarine so that the children, walking along it, felt like real captains, on their adventure towards the beach».

Said and done: the tunnel, once bare and sad, is now a colorful submarine, with funny portholes from which to observe a world made of colorful fish and seahorses.

Among the many awards obtained to date by the project is that of President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella who wanted to dedicate a message of esteem for his initiative to Silvio Irilli. However, the greatest emotion comes from awareness of how to transform hospitals into welcoming and child-friendly environments can be fundamental also and above all for the success of the therapies.

«In the Gemelli Oncological Radiotherapy bunker – the artist confides – young patients have to lie down on a rigid bed, inside a machine that acts on cancer cells and have to stay still, which is why doctors are often forced to resort to anesthesia. After making the work with the seascape, I was told by the health staff that for many young patients anesthesia was no longer necessary: the environment fostered children’s trust in doctors and induced them to close your eyes imagining that there was an underwater landscape around them. This was a great achievement, beyond any imagination».

There are many projects in the pipeline, including a job for Santa Lucia Foundation of Rome, a neurorehabilitation hospital where Silvio Irilli will soon build a waiting room dedicated to children.

The theme most used in pediatric wards? Of course it remains that ofaquarium which also inspired the mascot of the project, or the nice Captain Dolphin.

«The theme of the sea is what represents me the most and is the most requested – concludes Silvio Irilli – in addition to giving the possibility to create great scenarios with which children can interact, it also has a double meaning for me: without water there would be no life and, at the same time, in the water there is a wonderful life, which makes dream and give serenity».

In the gallery above some of the projects created by Silvio Irilli for Painted Hospitals.

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