It was Noella Murphy’s idea for Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!) to raise funds by publishing a colouring book to which Antigonish area artists might contribute. Noella herself offered two pieces for the book. Colouring Antigonish Volume I was launched and within a year demand of interest lead to Colouring Antigonish Volume II.
What makes Colouring Antigonish special is that so many local artists contributed to making it a success. Well-known area artists like Anna Syperek, Kate Brown-Georgallas, and Maureen St. Clair, to name only a few, contributed artwork for the colouring book. A high school student, Sophie Lawrence, St. Francis Xavier University Education student, Celeigh Barber-Russell, and L’Arche artists Anthony Burns, Kelly Farrel, and Tommy Landry also contributed drawings.
AHA! is a non-profit that recognizes and fosters the interplay between creativity and wellness, promotes education through the arts as a way to health, and assists young artists in a wide range of arts to further their potential. It seems fitting that AHA! celebrates Arts Health Month each November. As one of its founding members, Dr. John Graham-Pole, points out: “Art taps, for each of us, whatever our circumstances, a deep well of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It is indispensable to our lives, and to our total health.”
Proceeds from Colouring Antigonish will go towards arts health programming in the community, building on initiatives like Thundertales, a storytelling program through the arts for youth at Paqtnkek and Antigonish, and The Eldertree Project, which involved the gathering of stories and songs from elders in the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home and Highland-Crest Home. AHA! has also supported a music therapist who became established in a position at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital and in community high schools. Currently, AHA! is supporting a year-long pilot program in expressive arts therapy in the hospital and community.
Available for Purchase through the StFX Art Gallery, the Posh Peppermint on Main Street, and the Hospital Gift Store
AS: Jeremy, tell me a bit about yourself, about your passion for music.
JH: I grew up in British Columbia, and when I was around age ten we moved to Nova Scotia, where my mother held down two jobs. There are six kids in my family, four of whom are adopted. We were a wily (to say the least) bunch, a single home melting pot. When I was thirteen, I got a job on a farm in Yarmouth. The owners of the farm were a kind, older couple from Massachusetts. They knew we didn’t have much in the way of extras around home, what with my mother being the only breadwinner at that time, so one day when I was fifteen, they told me to “go upstairs to the attic and get that box up there.” I did, and in the box was an acoustic guitar. They gave it to me, and that was when I began to teach myself about music. I had no idea then what an enormous part of my life music would become.
AS: How did you get connected with Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!)?
JH: Jen Leuschner, a Public Health Manager and Co-Chair of AHA! had me come and play at her daughter’s birthday party. I kept the kids entertained… and contained, I hope. I met Jen prior to that party through my wife, but I think she knew about me because of my children’s band and our ECMA win.
AS: Tell me about that award.
JH: It was the ECMA Children’s Recording of the Year Award for 2014. I didn’t expect to win, or even be nominated, so it was great.
AS: So you got involved with AHA! and then what happened?
JH: Jen introduced me to Michelle Thompson, School Health Nurse Liaison, and Tara Hassin, Schools Plus Community Outreach Worker, both of whom work for the Strait Regional School Board. Michelle and Tara got me involved with the Schools Plus program, which helps identify kids in schools who might do well with extra support.
AS: And what were some of the highlights when you were doing that work?
JH: There are so, so many. I worked with one little boy, creating little tunes and exploring instruments, specifically, a djembe and my ukulele. Here, you can listen to an audio file on my phone—he’s singing a lullaby he was making up. He doesn’t have a father figure at home. His song is about a child being put to sleep, and the parents telling the child they love him. There, can you hear it?
AS: It’s beautiful—he’s got such a sweet voice.
JH: Music can be such a lifeline.
AS: Can you tell me more about that?
JH: Well, it’s one of the ways we develop avenues for ourselves in youth—as adults, we don’t want to box anyone in. It is one of the greatest roles we have as adults, to help provide and nurture development tools for the youth around us. Music, the arts—they’re such accessible forms of this. A guitar, a sketchbook, a barn to crank out noise with your friends.
AS: So on the one hand you’re giving kids strategies for how to deal with things and on the other hand you’re letting them fool around and play music. What other plans do you have?
JH: I hope to be able to keep this work going with kids. One of the things I’m doing is a program at the library. Sheila Sears, the Director of Public Health, asked if I would approach the kids who spend many of their afternoons there. I started spending time with them, listening to them, just being an ear sometimes. It’s been great, and it’s made me think about what kids need and don’t have here. They’d like a skateboard park, so that’s my next project. We’ve talked to the owner of the mall and she really likes our proposal, so we’re taking the next steps.
AS: You see all kinds of ways you can work for the community, don’t you?
JH: Well, I mean, some of this started with AHA! Everyone at AHA! made me feel part of the community. There was overwhelming support there for me to do what I wanted to do.
AS: And your dream is to continue to do this work with kids, the kind of work you did with Schools Plus?
JH: Yes. It’s so important for kids to have access to the arts. It’s one of the building blocks of community, and it’s certainly one of the building blocks of an individual’s mental health. It’s just so important.
On behalf of Antigonish Culture Alive, Anne Simpson will facilitate a workshop for artists of all kinds – How to Write a Strong Grant Application – in the Meeting Room of People’s Place Library on Thursday, December 4th from 4 – 6 pm. The workshop is free for ACA members, while the cost is $25 for non-members. (Anne will be taking 15 participants… only 7 spots left.)
How to Write a Strong Grant Application
ACA is sponsoring a workshop designed for creative individuals who will be applying for funding to help with proposed projects. Why do some worthwhile creative projects not receive funding? What sets a strong application apart from others? We will look at how to envision a project step-by-step and how to convey its important aspects. Local writer, Anne Simpson, has gained experience writing many grants of her own and has been on a number of juries for the Canada Council, the New Brunswick Arts Board and the Culture Division of the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
Excerpt from “Lasting Memories” by Corey LeBlanc firstname.lastname@example.org, August 7, 2014. The Casket
In recent weeks, as part of the Eldertree Project, an initiative of Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!), residents of Higland-Crest Home and the RK MacDonald Nursing Home have been talking with writer-in-residence Anne Simpson and emerging writer-in-residence Stacy Doiron.
The project is the first phase of a larger, trans-generational project. According to a description, the Eldertree Project is not only a way to enhance the mental health of elders, but also “a way of keeping them involved as authentic and active leaders within the community.” “At the same time, the project helps young artists advance as creative leaders who promote wellness through art, keep these emerging artists in the community longer, and connect them with the heritage of their elders,” it adds.
“It’s really a project whereby we gather stories, so it is not unlike Shared Stories, which was a project a couple years ago of ACALA and the RK,” Simpson told the Casket.
She said the goal with this idea; rather than have something in print, is “reaching a different audience,” which will be children.“We still don’t know what it will look like but it will be a performance – ostensibly for kids.
“It is ambitious,” Simpson added, noting she continues to work on getting the production presented in schools.
“Art has the power to inspire, the power to heal, the power to transform, to rehabilitate, to bear witness, and to make us believe that there are better days ahead.”
Michaelle Jean, former Governor General of Canada