AHA! Celebrates 2016!

Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!) enjoyed another remarkable year of exploring the arts-health relationship through projects, workshops, guest speakers and performances. In 2016, we employed 12 artists in part time work and for the third year in a row, brought close to $100,000 in funding to the local arts community.

AHA! began 2016 with releasing our second colouring book, Colouring Antigonish II, a wonderful project featuring local artists. There are still a few copies of both colouring book editions at the 5-$1.00, Lightsome Gallery, Down to Earth, the Made in NS Store and the hospital gift shop. Many thanks to all who have supported our work through contributing to, or purchasing these books. We are most grateful!

AHA! brought more arts into hospital care at St Martha’s Regional Hospital (SMRH) through introducing visual arts on several units with artists Corinne Dunphy and Rachel Power. Both were welcomed by staff, patients and families, bringing fun, friendship and joy into the lives of many who found themselves at SMRH. We are delighted that Rachel will be continuing in this position in 2017.

Arts Canopy, a one year pilot offering arts based programs to those living with dementia, began in the fall of 2016, supported in part by the NS Dept. of Seniors’ Age Friendly Communities Grant and the RK Foundation.  Coordinated by Mary Partridge, and guided by skilled arts facilitators, participants are exploring visual arts, dance, music and poetry. The fall sessions were very moving, with participants enjoying their engagement with others, noting improved mood and socialization not only during the program, but also for several hours afterwards. This project is continuing through the winter and spring with an ongoing registration through contacting Mary at mpartridge@rkmacdonald.ca  – anyone with dementia can join in! Stay tuned for a public installation of Arts Canopy projects……

In the latter half of 2016, AHA! was able to hire a coordinator for our youth programs, Monique Chisholm, who was a welcome addition with much-appreciated energy and enthusiasm.  Jeremy Holmes spent much of the winter, spring and fall of 2016 in local schools, making music to help youth learn, share, express, cope and socialize. The youth programming also involved two new programs under Thundertales III, with support through a CYAP grant from the NS Dept. of Communities, Culture and Heritage. Kim Wempe facilitated song writing with teenaged girls which was most successful in encouraging self expression, empathy and socialization, as well as helping to develop coping strategies. Kim’s spring sessions led to a performance and a CD and the fall groups collaborated to produce a CD.  In Project Sandbox, Brendan Ahern hosted podcasts with youth who explored fictional places, encouraging imagination and story development. artshealthantigonish.org/projects/project-sandbox

All of us at AHA! were delighted to welcome Jill Sonke, director of Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida last November. Jill was a true inspiration to those of us working in arts and health and also to many new to this movement. As a result of Jill’s visit, there are arts-health initiatives beginning at StFX and AHA! has recognized the need for better training and support for our artists, both of which are now in the works. Jill’s visit culminated in a wonderful celebration of local dance, inspiring to all!

Many thanks to those of you interested in what we do, who support our work in so many ways. Please feel welcome at our table any time.