Students take expressive arts to community 0
Many hands make light work. A needle-felted Tree of Life was made by residents at Hyland Crest during the Expressive Arts: Practical Community Experiences course offered through the Haliburton School of the Arts. Each section of the tree represents an aspect of life, e.g. the roots are our ancestors and childhood, the ground is where we�re at right now, the fruits are things we are proud of, according to Fay Wilkinson, co-ordinator of the program. All the components are wool. A group project, The Tree of life is now hanging in the activity room in Minden.
You don’t have to be an artist to participate in a new program through the Haliburton School of the Arts.
Expressive Arts: Practical Community Experiences was a new course delivered this past June under the direction of Fay Wilkinson.
The weeklong program had students plan and deliver 18 sessions in the community with long-term-care residents, yoga enthusiasts, a women’s choir and hospice volunteers, to name a few.
Close to 130 people participated, including 10 graduates of the expressive arts certificate program, according to Wilkinson.
The expressive arts certificate program has been offered at the Haliburton School of the Arts since 2002, according to Wilkinson, who has been teaching it since 2003.
“This is sort of that professional development for graduates of the expressive arts program, and that’s really where you learn,” she said.
During the course students worked hard, spending half a day in a classroom planning sessions and the other half out in the community.
Sessions included activities with various groups, including a stroke recovery group.
Called I Am Here, the activity gave participants a chance to use the arts to express that they are still present, even with limited movement and vocal capabilities.
“They brainstormed words and then chose one of those words and created an art piece to represent that they are still here,” said Wilkinson.
The sessions provided a first-hand look for residents and community groups to see exactly what expressive arts is all about.
“I was so thrilled at the response of this community and how open they were. For many of them they didn’t know what they were getting into,” she said, adding the community support is necessary to run such a program.
Facilitating and co-ordinating all the sessions herself, Wilkinson was thrilled at the opportunity to participate in the Poverty to Possibility Forum held at Fleming College during the same week as the program.
“We were able to create some artwork around the idea of the impoverished spirit … what’s that about and what does it look like?” asked Wilkinson.
With prior experience in the expressive arts program, Annie Mighton is a believer in the difference it can make in a community. Mighton helped organize and set up a number of sessions for the practical community experiences.
“It was just wonderful to see that participation level … and see how everyone does it differently. There’s no judgment, there’s no right or wrong. It’s very open,” said Mighton.
With everyone participating at their own comfort level, the program resulted in a rich experience, she said.
“One quote that I heard years ago said an artist is not a special type of person but every person is a special type of artist, and I often say that to people,” she said. “I think everybody has a flair and often it’s buried and lost because we’ve been told that’s not good enough.”
The program offered a safe space for everyone participating, which Mighton believes is one of its greatest benefits.
There is still tweaking and learning to be done before running the program again said Wilkinson, who would like to get more youth involved in the future.
“Some sessions went very smoothly, some were bumpy. But if it all went smoothly then we’re not learning anything.”
Based on the positive responses the college hopes to see the program offered again.
“I think this is an excellent example of education in action and positive impact in a community,” Shelley Schell, training officer for the college, wrote in an email.
Schell said the program is going to be included in the 2013 programming, if all goes well.
“I will indeed be approaching Fay to teach the course again. We have chatted about it and she’s interested, we just haven’t settled on a date yet.”