AHA! Connects – AHA! Playshops


       April 15, 2023


Today we are celebrating AHA!’s ‘playshops’, John’s term for a workshop at which we play with the arts, rather than working at anything! We have found that ‘playshops’ well-expresses what goes on at these fun events!

Since 2013, AHA! has hosted numerous playshops for ourselves (both for team-building and for self-care), as well as for the community, usually in November, Arts-Health Month. Community playshops have been offered to children, teens, families, and adults. John and Wendell were our first playshop coordinators and they were amazing! Playshop facilitators have been both professional artists from outside Antigonish (Jerry Granelli, Rose Adams, Sheree Fitch, Maureen St Clair, Natalie Abdou and Jill Sonke), and local artists (Anne Simpson, Kim Wempe, John Graham-Pole, Noella Murphy, Jeremy Holmes, Vicki Palmer, Mary-Beth Carty, Fenn Martin, Janette Fecteau, Celeigh Barber-Russell, Wendell White, Peter Jowett, Rachel Power, Mary Partridge, Rosemary Curry, Angus MacCaull, Brendan Ahern  and Laura Teasdale). Retired art teacher and artist, Nancy Turniawan has been especially dedicated in guiding many AHA! playshops over the years, facilitating visual art, fingerpainting, playing with beach pebbles, clay and numerous nature arts activities, both at the Lakevale Community Centre and at the Wednesday Markets. Together we’ve explored music, songwriting, meditation, dance, clay, games, story, poetry, laughter, improv, writing, visual arts, nature meditation, gardening, photography, cooking…… and enjoyed every minute of it!

Community collaboration:


A healthy community knows its history
By Dr. John Graham-Pole

Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!) and the Heritage Association of Antigonish (HAA) partnered to host two Dance for Life events in 2016 and 2017. We wanted to celebrate how dance is an ancient tradition of healing practice throughout the world.  We especially sought to gather together different dancers and dance troupes to illustrate the diversity and beauty of performances that are alive and well in our small community—Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Scottish, and many others.

We led off with a healing ceremony of recommitment to peace and friendship between nations. We invited all attendees to sign a Parchment of Re-Commitment that featured a painting by Mi’kmaw artist Loretta Gould, with Clan signatures from the original 1725 Peace and Friendship Treaty. 

Dancers included Molly Peters and her daughters Madison and Meadow performing a traditional Mi’kmaw Jingle Dress Dance, Anne Camozzi with Little Cloud on a Wheelchair, Jeannine Philpott & her Dance Team, Maureen Fraser School of Dance accompanied by 87 year old Jimmy Fraser, Liliona Quarmyne with an original contemporary African dance, Sarita Ghore & Gayathri Vikram with a traditional Garbha dance of South India, Kate Georgallis and friends with a Nia demonstration, the L’Arche community performing “A Gift of Friendship’ and “a Fusion Dance of Nations’ performed by the 2017 Coady Diploma participants.

Before we all said Wela’lin and Goodnight, everyone took the dance floor for a dance rave which continued well into the evening.

We left knowing that Dance for Life had succeeded beyond expectation in celebrating the art and culture of many nations and drawing our whole community closer together.

Dance for Life offered a proud & hopeful legacy of intergenerational learning & cooperative practice opportunities for our collective & individual health and wellbeing. As we had hoped, the Parchment of Re-Commitment to Peace and Friendship, has become a living growing document, now housed permanently at Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw community.

In May of 2014, the acclaimed nature photographer Peter Jowett took some members of Arts Health Antigonish on a nature walk along a trail at Brown’s Mountain. We knew the value of taking care of ourselves, being in nature, and having creative outlets, like photography. This came home to us as we hiked the trail to the waterfall, meditated on a hillside with Wendell White, and learned from Peter Jowett about how he takes photographs. It was a memorable and convivial outing. It represented to us what Arts Health Antigonish was, and is, all about—doing something creative together.    – Anne Simpson

Nancy Turniawan shared her process for exploring nature and creating nature art in our Spellbound by Nature Project………. Exploring Nature with Nancy:

To become inspired by your environment, look around familiar spaces from different vantage points. Crawl close to the earth like an ant. Lie on your back and look straight up through branches of a tree as leaves unfurl.  Count or draw things within a space you’ve marked out and watch the changes over different seasons. Feel textures with your eyes closed. Explore things in different weather, watching dew and raindrops on leaves. Most fascinating for me is watching leaves bud out, and marveling at the many types of seeds and how they are designed to be transported to new locations. I carry a camera to take photos because light and shadow fascinates me. I have a personal collection of things that I can draw and study: shells, bones, feathers, rocks, seedpods. 

 Nancy’s suggestion: Take 10 minutes each day to draw from nature and it will become a personal pleasure that you look forward to.  Write the feelings you get after you are finished, and they become your poems. 

And the last word on AHA! playshops goes to participants…….

The… workshop generated much positive energy, facilitated connections and produced joy. Everyone present voiced deep appreciation, and I think many of us felt awe…… this series is inspired, and we are very fortunate to have access to it. AHA! is doing terrific work!

Thanks SO much AHA! for sponsoring the 4 Tuesdays in November. I so enjoyed the 2 I attended.

Very worthwhile! I had never used pastels before or been shown different techniques. I enjoyed the informal, quiet and relaxed setting as well as the snack break when we got to socialize a bit and chat with the artist.

It was fun! A new way to write and express…Looking forward to the next one.

A fun evening out with great people. Both those new to town and long-term residents are making new connections. I bet everyone goes home feeling richer!

Another very enjoyable evening – this series has been just great!! Many, many thanks!