Photo by Haley Ausbun. Chip Coates, a Renton teacher, donated his time to install murals at the Valley Medical Center Children’s Therapy facility.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Chip Coates, a Renton teacher, donated his time to install murals at the Valley Medical Center Children’s Therapy facility.

A mural of Renton inspires smiles

Teacher, painter paints children’s waiting room for free

Chip Coates is a fifth grade Renton teacher, who paints murals in his spare time. His latest project had him up at 6 a.m., painting before school.

He was helping kids in a different way.

Coates has added a splash of happy colors and memorable scenery onto the walls at the Valley Medical Center (VMC) Children’s Therapy office, located near the Renton IKEA.

This project began last year, when Coats emailed several hospitals about creating a mural. He said he was interested in creating something visitors could interact with, and that he was drawn to hospitals after spending a lot of time in them when he was younger. Previously he painted murals for homes, restaurants and designed theatre sets.

A few months later, in August 2018, he got a reply. VMC Children’s Therapy Rehabilitation Manager Kari Tanta said they got a play area mural a few years back and had been interested in updating the waiting room. The problem was there was no money for new murals, but Coates offered his work for free, donating his time and paint.

Coates wanted the images to be fun, while also not overwhelming the children in the waiting rooms and listening to what staff wanted. The Roxy Theatre, a Boeing jet, Renton High school and Pike Place Market are all featured on the mural.

Since February, Coates has come in and painted the mural bit-by-bit. He was comfortable with the families watching him paint each day. Some children have even asked him questions about the work, which includes some recognizable landmarks from around Renton and the Seattle area.

“I’ve always been someone that likes to do big paintings, and this (project) just resonates with who I am,” Coates said.

Children’s Therapy provides inpatient and outpatient treatment in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, social and nutritional services, and family resource coordination. This project comes at the same time as the waiting room is getting remodeled, Tanta said.

The murals have now become an extension of the therapy, Tanta said, and that they’ve become another part of the equipment. The mural has also been a talking point at the weekly art therapy sessions for the facility.

“These murals are very interactive. In the waiting room our kids are working on language and social skills, talking about murals as places their families go,” Tanta said. “That’s been really exciting.”

More of his work can be found at sunnyday.org.


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Photo by Haley Ausbun. The new murals at the Valley Medical Center Children’s Therapy facility.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. The new murals at the Valley Medical Center Children’s Therapy facility.

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