Alumna Joy Hof Murals

Alumna Joy Hof Brings Playful Murals to Children’s Hospital

Story by Amber Abunassar '16. Originally published by university news services, February 17, 2016.

It was a day visit to Asheville at age 17 that ultimately brought Joy Hof to UNC Asheville, launching her on a journey that helped her discovered her passion for art and share that talent with the community, particularly kids who can benefit from its beauty.

Hof is now a muralist for Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, filling the walls with colorful landscapes and playful animals to promote happiness and healing. Growing up, she found herself sketching through classes, particularly during a field trip to Asheville, and gravitating to art classes because they were a fit for the way that she thinks.

“It actually helps the patients when they come into that room,” Hof said. “I, as an artist, am taking that white sterile space and transforming it into an environment that is engaging and takes the child and the family members that are in there away from their fears and anxieties to just a place of comfort and harmony with all the colors.”

Mission Health hired Hof to paint the treatment room, which shows large-scale landscape that has taken her several months to complete. She dedicated all of her working hours to the project. 

Hof enjoys hiding objects in the murals, and the wall includes raccoons, butterflies, squirrels, kites and ice-cream cones for patients to search for as a distraction while they are being treated. It is a way to reduce anxiety and a conversation starter for the patients and nurses—instead of talking about the pain of the treatments they can engage in the murals.

It’s that kind of engagement with art that Hof developed as a student at UNC Asheville. She found the faculty in the art department were always willing to challenge and push her towards growing as an artist. Part of that process was taking classes outside of her major.

“Taking a broad range of classes like humanities and English classes, there’s always little hints of all different types of art in all those classes,” Hof said. “I am really thankful for UNC Asheville’s art department and the professors that really invested in me and believed in me.”

She continues that appreciation in her work.

“I have so much to be thankful for with this job, I feel like it’s meaningful because it’s giving back to children and families,” Hof said. “I really do believe in the arts and I believe they are very important and it’s important to value them. It’s nice to see the hospital is actually valuing art as well.”

And even though Hof has purchased numerous other sketchbooks along the way of her UNC Asheville journey, she still continues to doodle in the little journal that started it all.

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Additional details:

Before she was hired to paint the treatment room discussed above, Joy painted murals in the hallways of the Childrens' Hospital at Mission, the source of the hummingbirds and squirrel.  After Joy graduated from UNC Asheville in December 2013, (she writes) "I continued volunteering time bringing arts and crafts to the sick patients by their bedside as a therapy for them. [In December 2014, she was hired to paint murals in hallways.] The images have the theme of nature. This was requested by the team of doctors, nurses and Child Life specialists to promote health, healing and a sense of peace through the power of visual art on the walls. The hallways each have a theme of one particular animal and the plant life around it. There are several images painted of the animal trailing along the hallway."

Check out her BA Senior Exhibition.