Please describe your own artistic practice. How do the arts contribute to your own wellbeing? I am a visual artist, working primarily in the media of stained glass and batik. I am also a writer of poetry and essays. I fit these pursuits in around my part-time work as an art teacher and AHA!-Arts Canopy facilitator. I am also a busy community activist. For me, creative work is essential to my health and wellbeing. When I am engaged in creativity is when I feel the most fully alive and connected. When I haven’t made time to get into that creative “zone” in a while, I get very cranky!
How are you connected with AHA! and AHA! projects? Which role(s) have you fulfilled? AHA!-Arts Canopy artist-facilitator since 2017, facilitating poetry workshops.
What do you feel was the impact of the project(s) on participants? Arts Canopy sessions are such a joy to participate in, because they are very celebratory, inclusive spaces where everyone is encouraged to express themselves creatively, to get into that healing energy flow that comes with “doing” art, or dance, or storytelling, etc. People have a chance to to engage with and share their deeper memories, and to feel like part of a supportive, fun group. I have noticed people’s confidence building, over the weeks of a session.
Have you learned or ‘taken away’ anything from your work with AHA!? Please elaborate! Arts Canopy works with people with dementia. Over the course of many sessions, my own fear of dementia has lessened. The disease entails significant loss, yes, but I have discovered there is so much richness still there: sharing, fun, teasing, laughter, eye contact, togetherness, enough trust in people to share something personal or tender. All of this and more is still very much alive. I am grateful for having had this opportunity to learn and grow.
A sample of your artistic work:
Here are two poems I wrote about participants in the Arts Canopy programme, that also reflect what the programme did for all participants, including myself.
Not a poet. More a memoirist, philosopher. An essayist, a social
commentator. She listened keenly, gave every poet the respect
only keen listening can give. She examined deep ideas:
life after death, the nature of cats and dogs, men
and women. What companionship means. She wanted more
“afternoons like this, nice and easy-going” a place
where people gathered to talk about more
than just the weather.
Not a joiner, she arrived
week three with a poem in her, ready.
About her father, his passing that winter.
She held us rapt, so we could only
applaud. Hooked after that, she was faithful
to the group. The sweet, the bitter, the saucy,
she brought her authentic self every week,
working it through, energy growing
in her. Staunch in defense of the vulnerable,
generous in praise of her fellow poets. She lifted
us, buoyed us, held us solid.