Meet Bren Bataclan: Bringing a new, animated world to life at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic

The Jimmy Fund Clinic is undergoing a major transformation. Clinic space will increase 40 percent to provide state-of-the-art pediatric cancer care in a setting that empowers our youngest patients to still be kids. As a part of this renovation, Jimmy’s Junction is being built to nurture an aura of friendliness and comfort in the clinic and create a fun, positive atmosphere for our youngest patients.

For more than 10 years, artist Bren Bataclan has been inspiring smiles.

In the summer of 2003, he began his street art installation, “The Smile Boston Project,” which involves leaving his cartoon inspired paintings for people to enjoy for “free” all over Boston (park benches, trains, schools, malls, etc.) Attached to each painting is a note saying, “This painting is yours if you promise to smile at random people more often.”

With Smile Boston – and in life – Bren strives to bring art to people who may not typically visit art galleries, give paintings to folks who may not be able to afford original artwork, and see more smiles around the globe. With these values, it’s no wonder Small Design Firm tapped Bren as the collaborating artist when they started working with Dana-Farber on Jimmy’s Junction – a new wall display featuring animated cartoon characters in Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.

Bren recently took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us about the creation of these dynamic cartoon characters and how they’re bringing a new, fun, and happy world to life for our youngest patients and their families at the Jimmy Fund Clinic.

On his inspiration

“I’ve been drawing characters like this since I was a kid, but spending a week in the Jimmy Fund Clinic with patients and families before I started painting the temporary mural gave me a whole new perspective on things. It was stirring to observe these young kids as they shared snacks and played with each other -they were just being kids. This interaction allowed me to connect their experiences to my character’ stories. And while their activities inspired me, I hope ultimately my stories of these characters inspire them as they continue their journey through cancer treatment.”

On bringing the characters to life

“To bring the characters to life, Small Design Firm brought in animator Chris Stacy. Chris is brilliant. We’ve been working on the project together for more than a year and the overall theme is “encouragement.” For example, take Wheelie. “Wheelie’s super-hero strength is his ability to make kids feel really good about themselves. His big smile and thumbs-up can brighten anyone’s day. He makes you feel that you can do anything.” Wheelie zips around everywhere really, really fast, spreading joy and happiness to many different places.”

Artist Bren Bataclan teaches Dana-Farber patient Hailey how to draw characters from Jimmy’s Junction – a unique new wall display featuring animated cartoon characters in Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic

On what it means to work with Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund on this project

“It has been amazing to witness these kids’ bravery. They’re so resilient. No matter what they’re going through, they’re still just kids. It was inspiring to watch them play even through treatment…and I’m very proud to have had the chance to work on this project.”

Jimmy’s Junction was created by Small Design Firm, in collaboration with artist/writer Bren Bataclan, and animator Chris Stacy. This special naming opportunity features 51 Jimmy Fund Friends-each with its own unique name, personality, and story, available on a first-come first-serve basis now through December 31, 2014.