Donor funded Expressive Arts programs at VWTH include the Turning the Tide program out of Oak Bay and the Healing Through the Arts Program in collaboration with Cedar Hill Recreation. The most recent session of Healing Through the Arts wrapped up just before Christmas. The 8-week program saw a group of VWTH clients from the 50+ program participate in self-reflective work exploring a range of colour and paint techniques and discovering personal strengths.
This program runs with a VWTH counsellor and an artist facilitator. Different artists lead each 8-week block of sessions allowing for a variety of styles and media to be explored.
Drawing inspiration from nature, beautiful, colourful artwork now graces the walls at Cedar Hill Rec, created over the past weeks.
Meet the Artist Facilitator
Shantael Sleight is a contemporary Canadian painter based in Victoria, BC. Since completing her BFA in 2002 from the Alberta College of Art & Design she has maintained a studio practice and has exhibited publicly and privately throughout Canada. Shantael’s artwork focuses on the human experience instantiated in nature, as a way to explore themes of ephemerality, impermanence, abundance and nuance.
You recently facilitated an eight-week session of the VWTH Healing Through the Arts program, how did you decide what art techniques to instruct, and projects to work on?
I started thinking about the most healing and valuable aspects involved in the process of creating and making art. This led me to draw on my experience with mindfulness, painting and areas that I personally draw inspiration from in my own practice. I wanted to go beyond technique and inspire the women to draw from their life, follow a process and creative approach without holding on too tightly to the finished product. Because my background is in painting I felt this was a good place to start. Painting offers a variety of ways to explore colour, shape and other elements of design. It also allows for exploration and great freedom of expression. Each class would build on the previous class, and employ the visual art techniques they learned while also incorporating a creative practice or prompt that allowed new ways of looking at things.
For example: Class 6 – Sacred landscapes:The technique was to learn how to mix paint colours, create a composition in collage with shapes and painted papers with principles of perspective (back, middle and foreground). We began this class with a visualization in nature, then time to free write and hone in on their ‘place’ in nature.
As the session progressed what did you observe about the way the creative activities you chose impacted the participants?
I observed many different responses, all completely normal in the process of creating. Frustration, joy, excitement, confusion, fear, sadness. Every activity was always an invitation, without expectation. It was very important to me that participants knew that they got to decide whether they wanted to explore an activity – and trust their own inner voice. By the fourth class I noticed many participants relax and take more risks in their artwork. There were less questions about how to do something and more willingness to try something new, have conversation and share ideas. There was also more camaraderie that developed between participants. At the last class when there was time to talk about the artwork and their experience, it was clear for many participants that certain activities were more meaningful and rich, sometimes cathartic.
At the end of the session there were many beautiful, colourful pieces of art created by group members, but were there other non-tangible takeaways?
New friendships developed.
Simple practices like deep breathing, free writing, observing small things in nature, all the colours of green etc… that some participants had already started to incorporate in their daily lives.
Some participants set up space at home to continue to work on artmaking.
A sense of trust, joy and play through the artmaking process
An opportunity to try new things
Words written by one participant about the experience: “freedom, exploration, acceptance, learning through process”
Another session of Healing Through the Arts is scheduled to run from January – March with a ceramics focus. This program is made possible thanks to generous donor support.
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