AHA! 2020 Reports

Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!) 2020 Report                                    March 3, 2021

2020 was a year of disruption to our ways of living and being, a year of change in how we work, live and play, a year of growth, of finding new ways to connect, to stay healthy, to re-prioritize, and a year in which globally, we saw the power of the arts to improve wellbeing. 2020 also brought challenges to AHA! and to our programs.

Arts Canopy was winding down at the end of February as we had completed our 2019 funding cycle and had not found funding to continue in 2020. We did both rewrite our 2020 proposal at the funder’s request, making the programming pandemic-appropriate, but still did not receive further funding. As not only funding, but also access to care homes has been limited in the past year, Arts Canopy is now dormant. However, some good news arrived today in that our proposal for Art Larks, a project that brings the arts to seniors with dementia and their caregivers living in community has been funded for 2021. We also have a little funding for an offshoot project of Arts Canopy, the creation of a booklet for caregivers based on the program, and are seeking someone to take on this project.

We had planned to continue our Spellbound by Nature project as March break camps and after school spring programs in 2020. This program began with pilot programming in the summer of 2019 with several community partners. With the arrival of the pandemic, we decided to use the rest of our funding to create an online spell-kit, a resource based on the program, a suggestion of the participating community partners as a result of the pilot. This spell-kit employed 33 NS artists and poets, 6 StFX biology students and staff and engaged numerous volunteer reviewers and editors. The feedback for this project has been affirming and heartwarming. It is hoped that this online project will continue to be shared widely. It will remain online until September 2022.

Shelley Long started in January of 2020 as our artist offering Art Care at the hospital. She was finding her rhythm when, in March, volunteers were not permitted in the hospital due to the pandemic. I give Shelley full credit for advocating for herself and her work, but unfortunately, to no avail. During this time, Shelley contributed inspiring blogs for AHA! that were shared both on the website and on facebook. She was allowed back in the hospital by September and has continued her work since that time. This setback did give us an opportunity to address her volunteer status at the hospital and I’m pleased to say that we now have an arrangement that will ensure Shelley will be granted an exemption should volunteers once again not be allowed entry.

We piloted a series of two virtual 2-hour workshops with Maureen St. Clair in November, entitled, Writing to Listen, Writing to Heal. Maureen delivered these from Grenada. Those who attended were well engaged and seemed to appreciate Maureen’s gentle style and to value the content of these workshops.

2021 will be our 9th year of bringing arts-health programming to the Antigonish community.  2020 taught us that we are all vulnerable, many of us are stressed and everyone needs to be engaged with the arts.  AHA! learned valuable lessons about stabilizing employment for our artists and about the benefits of creating toolkits based on pilot programs. AHA! will continue to offer Art Care at St Martha’s in 2021 and our photography project is still being used on some of the units there.  But we will have to reimagine how and where we deliver 2021 programs, to ensure they are delivered safely. As several of our usual granting programs are still not being offered, it may be challenging to find funding and we may have to be creative in our offerings and funding models. That being said, we have supplies for a kite-making workshop with Rachel and hope at some point to offer our cooking workshop with the Department of Nutrition at StFX.  We have plans for other virtual and in-person workshops and are seeking funding for a couple of other community projects.

My heartfelt gratitude to all those who supported AHA! in navigating the challenges of 2020. Thanks to those who contributed to the Spellbound by Nature toolkit; thanks to those who participated in AHA! programs; thanks to those who facilitated or coordinated programs. And my deepest gratitude to the AHA! team, who behind the scenes help with logistics, payroll, grant writing, communications, and in numerous other ways, support this remarkable movement.

Liz Brennan,
Chair, AHA!