Art à la Carte

We bring art, conversation and joy to long-term and palliative patients by transforming sterile hospital rooms and treatment areas into places of greater comfort and hope.

Bedside volunteer engages in conversation with patient and staff.Our Story Why We Exist

Our mom was in the palliative care unit at the Foothills Medical Centre for the last 5 weeks of her life in January/February. She had been battling cancer for the past 6 years.  During her time at the Foothills, mom loved choosing the pictures that would be placed on her walls. One picture in particular really meant a lot to her – it was a picture of a polar bear cub in the snow. Her sister had stayed with her almost every night that she was in the hospital and she also fell in love with this polar bear picture. With Art a la Carte's permission, we purchased the picture and our mom wrote a special note on the back of the picture to give to her sister to say thank you for helping her through the last days of her time on earth. Mom gave her sister this picture two weeks before she passed away. I want to thank Art à la Carte for the impact they've made on our family’s lives. 

The City of Calgary is well-known for its vibrant arts community; the performing arts as well as the visual arts can help Calgarians to celebrate beauty, be inspired, nurture their feelings and enrich their daily lives. However, this is not the case for thousands of people in our City who are long term residents in our hospitals and care centres. Recognizing that the sterile hospital environment can be forbidding, Art à la Carte was created 20 years ago to fill this aesthetic gap, bringing a compelling and unique program of art and inspiration to patients in these centres.

What began in 1994 with a sampling of photographs placed on the wall of a single hospital room has grown into a collection of 500 plus pieces of diverse art that is brought to the bedside of Calgary patients. More than 81,000 visits have been made to Calgary health care facilities by compassionate volunteers who offer comfort to patients, families and caregivers through the bedside art program which is a compelling and unique complement to patient care. 

Bedside volunteers with samples of art.Our Impact What We Do

Art à la Carte’s mission is to create powerful connections through the arts with the vision of being recognized as a leader within the Calgary healing arts community. 

To most people hospitals and other medical settings are frightening and uncomfortable places. This was certainly true for educator, role model and humanitarian, Patti Hronek, who spent the last year of her life at the Foothills Hospital bedridden and unable to move. Patti had a rare form of bone cancer that ravaged her body beyond recognition, but it could not tarnish her indomitable spirit. When a friend offered Patti a choice of original photographs to place along the walls of her hospital room, the sterile setting was suddenly transformed into a comforting and personalized environment. Surrounded by memories, Patti was able to reconnect with the fullness of her life as she prepared to die.

Art à la Carte was established in 1994 as a tribute to Patti Hronek’s remarkable legacy. Today, Art à la Carte has evolved as the only local nonprofit organization to use the visual arts to bring art, conversation, and joy to thousands of people in Calgary medical settings every year. Volunteers make weekly visits to the bedside of acute and palliative care patients, encouraging them to select artwork for their hospital rooms. Cancer treatment areas are also enlivened with virtual skylights, creative murals and pieces of art in an effort to help ease the fear and stress often associated with invasive care. The power of the art is transformative to the patients who experience it, changing sterile and frightening places into a more homelike environment, returning a sense of dignity and autonomy to individuals during times when they are feeling vulnerable and also inspiring those who visit the residents in these care centres.

With more than 81,000 volunteer visits in the last 20 years, Art a la Carte is a master at using art to restore a sense of connection to the world beyond the hospital walls.

SkyCeiling™ installed above linear accelerator.Our Programs How We Do It

Art à la Carte has created a bedside program where volunteers visit patients in acute and palliative care. Patients are invited to choose the artwork that hangs on their walls and they appreciate the opportunity to select themes that are personal and meaningful to them including landscapes, wildlife, or travel destinations. Our programs have been enthusiastically embraced by patients and hospital professionals, both of whom recognize the profound impact the program makes to the experience people have in the hospital community. Patients also report that they look forward to the friendly and caring volunteers who bring the art - literally on a cart - to their rooms.

In 2013 alone, ­­­­20 passionate volunteers delivered 893 hours of service and 103,444 patients experienced the power of art in healing through Art à la Carte's Art for Patients programs. This number increases exponentially with the inclusion of family members, visitors and caregivers - all of whom are equally inspired by the art.

Art à la Carte is the only program of its kind in Calgary. The concept and delivery is so unique that other Canadian hospitals and hospices have created similar programs based on the Art à la Carte prototype. Both qualitative and quantitative research projects have been undertaken to identify the outcomes associated with program delivery and it has met with resounding endorsements.

Currently, our bedside programs are offered at the following Calgary care centres:

In Art à la Carte’s innovative new program “Create While You Wait™”, Art à la Carte, in cooperation with Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Wellspring Calgary and Cancer Bridges, has launched a brand new opportunity for Day Medicine patients to participate in individualized creative art activities while waiting for treatment. The "Create While You Wait™" program is unique to Alberta and possibly all of Canada. The guided activities are delivered by trained Art à la Carte volunteers.

Art à la Carte also brings inspiration to the hallways and common areas of local hospitals and care centres. Cancer treatment bays at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre have been decorated with over 60 canvases. Virtual skylights that bring the splendor of nature's artistry into imposing radiotherapy rooms bring comfort to patients who suffer from claustrophobia while an 8-panel mural by Calgary artist, Doug Driediger, creates a tranquil retreat for oncology patients and staff. The Footprints Gallery was dedicated in 2002 and is Art à la Carte's signature gallery of dedicated artworks. It features 35 original paintings, prints and photographs. The donated pieces celebrate the memories and lives of past patients while providing Alberta artists with a unique opportunity to showcase their talents and provide inspiration for all who pass through the heavily travelled hallway that connects the Foothills Hospital and the Special Services Building.

Get involved with Art a la Carte!Our Requests What You Can Do

Get Involved today! 

VOLUNTEER Read about Jim Krueger, one of our dedicated volunteers.

  • deliver art to patients
  • serve on our Board of Directors
  • join a committee
  • participate in special events
  • help others to learn about the program


  • your resources, time and talents
  • introductions to potential community partners
  • submit a testimonial for our website


  • a spokesperson
  • an individual donor
  • a corporate sponsor


  • contribute towards matching gifts programs
  • prizes and goods for special events


Debbie Baylin
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 889052254RR0001

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