We live in strange and difficult times. When the Covid-19 pandemic made its debut, our world was rocked by devastating loss of life. Our schools, businesses, and essential services were shut-down. Even still, both travel and the distribution of goods has been disrupted. Our medical system is being inundated with those fighting COVID-19 along with other illnesses. Though we are in the process of re-opening some of these things, the reality is setting in; Covid-19 has radically changed every fiber of our society. I wonder, how can art inspire us, and be a force for resilience in the time of COVID-19?
While social distancing requirements have forced the cancellation and suspension of many social, cultural, and artistic events and services, the arts have always been and continue to be a way to illustrate the resilience in our society, foster self-reflection and connection with others in profound ways. The role of artists and the arts is not just to record, commemorate, or comment on socio-cultural events, but to uplift, encourage and give hope to all those who see experience it.
It’s no surprise, then, that this health crisis has inspired artists to create. At this time in history, artists are illuminating the world around us. All around us, we can see a wide range of COVID-19 inspired artistic endeavours.
Examples of Art Emerging During COVID-19
Painted Posters and Rocks
Early on in this pandemic, many participated in the communal effort to cheer on frontline and essential service works with posters and scripted messages of hope and love to isolated populations, such as seniors in care facilities. With children home from school, painted rocks also became one way for youngsters to express their gratitude and connect with a seemingly intangible concept of a pandemic and quarantine. Placed discretely around town, happening upon these gems still reminds us that we are all in this together.
Across the Lower Mainland, street murals have been springing up everywhere. Murals adorn exterior walls of elementary and high-schools, under over-passes, downtown buildings, and malls. Locally, a mural was recently completed at Tsawwassen Mills Mall by artists Jan Rankin and a Natalie Way. Its beach scene reminds us of the connection we have to the nature around us. In downtown Ladner Village, a recently-completed mural done by artist Gary Nay helps depict the vibrancy of Ladner and the region.
What do these murals do? They help to create a sense of community, offer messages of hope, and add cheer, all of which we need during this time!
Across the Lower Mainland, “Open Air” art galleries are expanding. There is a new-found vigour as artists respond to the issues of today and the fight against COVID-19. Over 200 public art pieces in and around Vancouver are part of The Vancouver Mural Festival and range in subject matter, but they provide overall messages of love, community, strength and resilience. All art pieces are accessible online if you can’t get out to see them.
Online and Social Media Platforms
From the comfort of our homes, we can tour the world’s greatest museums, historical sites, and have access to online exhibitions. The University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, for instance, gives you digital access to their collections, and a range of podcasts, stories, and research.
Instagram and Facebook have some interesting links to innovative and timely art. On Instagram, the account @covidartmuseum consists of themes and art work related to Covid-19 and shows how, in tough times, art can be used for serious contemplation but also offer comic relief. On Facebook, “Dr. Bonnie Henry Fan Club” tells us of a tribute art show at the Ministry of Health showcasing artwork, such as paintings, signs, mosaics and fibre arts, sent to Dr. Bonnie Henry from people all over the province and world.
We can also peek inside the life of an ER nurse, Anna Trowbridge, who sketches the scenes at work and posts them to her Instagram account. Her drawings show us how things really are on the front lines. Though this may be hard for some to take in, it captures the human side of the pandemic and highlights the heroic nature of our health care workers.
The Importance of Art Through COVID-19
Making art is one way we can practice self-care and learn positive coping strategies, both of which builds resilience
Viewing, and even more so, making art can be an important part of your self-care routine. Setting aside time to do something creative has been shown to reduce stress, protect against depression and anxiety, and can improve self-confidence and problem solving skills. Enjoying the mindful process of creating can help in pain-management, and it offers positive distraction tools and healing. Whether it is journaling, painting, singing, dancing, or knitting, our chosen activities helps to shore up our defences and learn healthy habits that we can use to sustain us during tough times. As we head into Fall, with the possibility of further shut-downs, we need the arts now more than ever. Its times like these where art can make all the different to keep our spirits up.
Making art together feeds our needs as social beings
Making art with others brings with it social benefits; it allows a space for relationships to be built, fosters a sense of belonging, and provides an outlet for self-expression. As we face COVID-19 fatigue and social distancing measures, doing something together with others is becoming more and more important for our mental health. It is not the art itself that has true value, it’s the ideas, conversations, choices, and connections we have made with ourselves and with others as we create that matters. Whether it’s connecting with a small group of people in person or online, the social nature of art helps us to not only to share our stories or voice our own opinions, but to listen to others with a compassionate ear.
Self-expression through mindful making helps us make sense of the uncertain world around us
This pandemic has compelled us to look at what matters to us, what we deem as essential, and to reflect on our lifestyle. Tuning into the present moment with self-compassion allows us to stop, breathe, observe, acknowledge, contemplate, and respond to our current state. Approaching the art making process in a mindful way can be very relaxing as well as restorative. Thoughtful experimentation can help us cope with the chaos around us and help us to express our beliefs and opinions and be open to new ways of thinking and doing. Giving yourself permission to question your own thoughts carefully, and without judgment, is an effective way to learn more about yourself and to rest and regroup.
How Can We Infuse Art Into Our Lives During COVID-19?
Art can be a major benefit for all of us as we head into the the Fall season, and into further unknowns. With school starting up, work shifting, and all that comes with this, we need now more than ever to take care of ourselves. Here are a few ideas on how we can use art to manage through this challenging time:
Check in with your local community centres, artists’ guild, or private classes in the arts. There are so many wonderful artists in our communities and many are offering classes or experiences you can take part in.
Create or buy art for your loved ones. Whether you make something yourself, or buy from a local artist, your gift can show others you are thinking of them. Supporting local businesses and donating to local causes also creates a stronger community! At Alongside You, sales of our jewelry, cards, and art help to fund our Step Forward Program, a program that has become increasingly important in subsidizing services for those in need of financial assistance.
Learn a new skill online. How we do art has changed, and with many programs facing shut downs, artists and organizations are finding ways to adapt their art making offerings. Online learning tools and YouTube videos are a great way to try something new. Finding a live class can also help connect those who may feel isolated. Learning to dance, paint, draw, sing, knit, write poetry, or play an instrument with the help of online tools is a great way to pass the time as we stay home!
What we’ve learned over time is that the creative arts are essential. They enrich our lives, they help us practice self-care, encourage connection, embrace challenges, share our stories and knit our community together. Creative connection is crucial, especially now. May you be safe, be calm, and be kind.
EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT! Open Studios are Back! COVID-Style.
After long last, we are excited to announce the opening of Open Studio Sessions, COVID-Style. We’ve made some changes to our operations and programming to keep people safe and healthy while being able to open the studio back up! We can not express how excited we are to welcome you into the studio again!
Click here to read about some of the changes and how to register for Open Studios again. We look forward to seeing you!
Herring, Daniel. Mindfulness-Based Expressive Therapy for People with Severe and Persistent Mental Ilness. P.171. In In Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies: Theory and Practice. Laury Rappaport ed. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2014: 168-179.
Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L. & Burney, R. J The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Behave Med (1985) 8: 163.
McNiff, Shaun. Chapter 2: The Role of Witnessing and Immersion in the Moment of Arts Therapy Experience. P. 40-41. In In Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies: Theory and Practice. Laury Rappaport ed. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2014: 38-50.
You wake up and it’s still there; that dull pain in your body that reminds you of your chronic condition. You feel like staying in bed all day, but you know that would leave you in even worse shape. So, what can you do to get through the day? Here are five ways to manage daily chronic pain:
Begin to breathe – with intention.
Yes, breathing is essential to live, but doing mindful breathing can calm our body, focus our mind, and alleviate stress. Sit comfortably with your eyes open or closed. Start by breathing in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your breath, and the sensations in your body (shoulders, stomach, nostrils). Notice all the sensations all around you (smells, sounds, presence). Take deep breaths through your nose as slow and controlled as possible, and exhale through your mouth as slow and controlled as possible. Try to make this process of breathing in and out last for a total of 7 seconds or more. Refocus your gaze to end the exercise.
Be realistic of daily goals.
The busyness of life doesn’t stop for someone who has chronic pain. Those of us who have daily pain, however, need to prioritize daily activities and goals based on how we are feeling on any given day. It’s a hard pill to swallow realizing that we can’t do it all. Start with having just one or two things on your “to do,” list for the day, week, or month. Empty the dishwasher, check. Pick up library books, check. Starting small and completing a short list of manageable goals will reward you with a great sense of accomplishment.
Even though our natural tendency is to want to curl up in a ball when we are in pain, staying stationary is one of the worst things we can do. Our brain and body need stimulation and range of motion to heal and to cope with pain. Staying active may look different to people based on their pain. For some, a successful active session can be as simple as walking down the block and back each day and for others, doing moderate cardio activity for 20 mins a couple times of week is right for them. Change it up every once in a while to make exercise fun and interesting. Don’t forget to add some intensity or to lengthen the duration of your exercise sessions every now and then. Doing too much too soon may backfire, but test your limits – you never know if you can do something until you try!
Alternate your day between periods of activity and periods of rest. Start by setting aside just 30 mins of your day to rest your body and mind well. By well, I mean ‘set the stage’ to help you have the best rest possible. Based on your pain, find a comfortable place to rest with some of the following: low light, heat pack, ice packs, eye patches, soft music, a mindfulness meditation app or even have a hot bath. Maximize your time of rest and it will help get you through other parts of your day!
Tap into your spiritual side
Yes, this may be uncharted territory for some, but reading, journaling, praying, making art, or listening to something meaningful can help you to self-reflect, manage your emotions, set goals, and can really put things in perspective. There are times in your chronic pain experiences where you will need to draw inner strength, so make sure to build it up!
For many of us, chronic pain is here to stay so we might as well learn how to cope….HAVE HOPE.
Meg Neufeld, (MA) is the co-founder of Alongside You, an integrated health clinic that offers yoga, pelvic rehab, registered dietitian services, clinical counselling, group therapy, and therapeutic arts. As a cultural anthropologist and an artist herself, Meg seeks to make art accessible to people of different abilities, diagnosis and age. She is trained in Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy practices and has a particular interest in using art as a pain-management strategy in her own life.
Have you ever wanted to try art journaling but need a nudge to get started? Do you journal or write regularly and want to take it to the next level by incorporating visual art? Do you want to learn some new techniques and get your hands on some inspiring prompts? Come and draw, paint, write, explore and create at our Introduction to Art Journaling workshop!
What You Will Learn
Working with your own personal journals, you will be guided through how to:
Apply a variety of techniques to alter journal pages using a range of lettering, collage, foil, pastels, salt, acrylic paint, alcohol ink and a range of watercolour mediums.
Carve your own personal lino-cut stamp, make foam-prints, and hand-cut your own stencils.
Alter pages with folds, pockets, and found material.
Learn how to build your own on-the-go art journaling kit so you can journal anywhere!
Incorporate thought provoking prompts and inspirational topics to help you explore what it means to “Be You.”
What You Need To Bring
A notebook. You generally want something portable (that is easy to pop in your purse or bag and not smaller than 5×7.Picking out a notebook is a very personally thing! Do you want lines or blank pages? Handmade paper or smooth pages?
You can also choose to bring an old book and alter its pages, using them as backdrops for your work. Make sure the binding is secure and that pages are not coming loose.
A black thin-line pen or marker. You will be using this constantly to sketch and write.
A white paint or ink pen for writing or sketching over your pages.
Come with the basics and some of your favorite tools and we will provide the rest!
What We Will Provide For You To Use In The Studio
We have an assortment of:
Pencils, ink pens, gel pens, and sharpies
Wide range of papers, foils, tissue, textured and printed material.
Scissors, paper cutters, tracing tools, templates, stencils, and rulers
Tape (masking, washi, duct), glue, acrylic medium, gel medium, gesso
Watercolours (pallet, crayons, pencils, pens), oil paint, and acrylic paint
Chalk and oil pastels, stamping objects, ink, sponges, brushes, alcohol inks, fabric, and much, much more!
Is This Just For Artists?
Absolutely not! Art journaling can be done by anyone! Art journaling is your own personal place where you can experiment with colour, materials, textures, and script. You don’t have to show your art journal to anyone as they may contain your own personal thoughts and your personal creative expressions and that is okay! It is the creative process that is important. Your journal is a place for you to work things out, to express your inner most feelings. It doesn’t have to be perfect as you are using your journal as a place to experiment with your creativity. Your art journal is yours alone and you do not have to discuss the content of your journal with anyone unless you wish to do so. We are always here and ready to assist you in any way.
Have Further Questions?
If you have any further questions, please contact Meg Neufeld at the office by calling (604) 283-7827 ext. 703 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to answer any questions you might have!
In honor of world book day, we thought we’d give you some examples of awesome books we’re using in the art studio! Check out your local bookstores for some of these titles and maybe you’ll find other gems out there! Feel free to share books you are reading, we’d love to hear from you!
1. Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine by Sandra Magsamen (2006) is about how to enrich your daily life in new and creative ways.
2. Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression by Shaun McNiff (2015) shares stories and insight from therapists and educators who are using artistic and creative activities as a way to spark the creative process. Different techniques are described and case studies are explored.
3. Kesu’: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer Jennifer Kramer (2012) records the life and times of Doug Cranmer, a renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artist know for his big personality and with a fierce love for his culture, his community, and teaching others. Meg Neufeld had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Doug Kranmer in Alert Bay, BC, and her research has been incorporated into parts of this publication as one of his last interviews before he died.
4. Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns by Sylvia Olsen takes a close look at Cowichan-style knitting designs through personal stories about history, family, culture, community and more recent fusions of the art. It contains beautiful photographs of both ancient and contemporary knitting designs that are interwoven with personal stories.
5. Journaling As a Spiritual Practice by Helen Cepero (2008) is book for beginners as well as experience journal writers that helps you go beyond the surface and guide with your relationship to God. Based on the authors own experience, each chapter contains journaling practices and helps to sharpen your focus on your spiritual journey.
6. Creating Together: Participatory, Community-Based, and Collaborative Arts Practices and Scholarships Across Canada (2005) by editors Diane Conrad and Anita Sinner explores newly developed approaches to research that combines art practices into community-based collaborative projects. Outlining several case-studies, contributors discuss art forms such as writing, mural projects, photography, and expressive arts, highlighting the positive and more challenging issues that arise during the process of creating and sharing collective knowledge.
7. Micawber by John Lithgow and illustrator C.F. Payne (2005) share a delightful children’s story about a squirrel who loves to paint. In order to explore his passion for painting, Micawber becomes a stow away in a painter’s bag, creating beautiful works using the tip of his tail. This inspiring stories shares that everyone can create, even a squirrel!
8. The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock and illustrator Sophie Casson (2015) explores the eccentric life of Vincent can Gogh in France in the 1880s who was mocked for looking unusual and creating strange paintings. No one was buying his paintings, yet he continued to paint. Using some of van Gogh’s famous paintings as a backdrop, this fictional story follows a young boy and his negative attitude towards the painter. By following van Gogh around, the boy’s attitude changes as he learns that everyone’s point of view is valuable.
Weekly themes are demonstrated in the first 15 mins of Open Studio time. Participants are free to create art pieces related to the weekly theme or can explore art activities of their choice.
Foam-Printed Cards – Monday December 5th and Wednesday December 7th
Create your own personalized foam stamp and make an endless number of cards for the special people in your home and work life! Learn the basics of speedball-printing techniques and make a printed art piece to take home or give away!
Decorations and Wreaths – Monday December 12th and Wednesday December 14th
Get into the holiday spirit and create your own unique multi-medium wreaths, decorations, or tree ornaments using a variety of materials such as: buttons, fabric, cardboard, and paint. From traditional and contemporary, to the subtle and whimsical, come explore some neat ideas while materials are at your fingertips! Make it for yourself, or give it as gift!
Gifts Galore – Monday December 19th and Wednesday December 21st
Come and make some personalized gifts for friends and family. You can make wood-burned boxes, picture frames, wooden spoons or cutting boards, air-drying clay pendants and beaded jewelry, or paint a picture — the options are endless.
Need a gift for someone you love? We have Gift Cards!
Think outside the box and give the gift of creativity to our Open Studio Sessions. Come along to create an unforgettable time of making and sharing, or send loved ones on their own for some much-needed down time. Gift cards can be purchased in person at our clinic, or can be purchased online in our online store by clicking here!
Did you know engaging in creative art activities can enhance the quality of life of those who have Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Anne Davis Basting hits the nail on the head when she says” the visual arts offers a way to communicate beyond words.” Art can have a profound impact on the lives of those suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
What is Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada defines Dementia as a group of symptoms that affect the brain’s ability to reason, remember information, communicate, and perform day-to-day-activities. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia (50%-70 % of all dementia cases are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s). However, memory loss can also be caused by other factors such as anxiety, vitamin deficiency, cardiovascular health, infection, thyroid function, and even depression. Unlike Alzheimer’s, these conditions once diagnosed, can still be treated, are often temporary, and at times, reversible. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are faced with an incurable disease that affects both language communication and memory retention.
With Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive decline of communication skills occurs. In the early stages, there are word-finding problems, comprehension difficulties, writing and reading difficulties. Over time, word-finding problems increase and conversation diminishes. This will eventually lead to limited verbal communication, the inability to read or write, difficulty expressing feelings, and challenges in recognizing family members. We’ve discovered that emotions and creativity are some of the last functions to decline. Therefore all efforts to preserve these functions through engagement and activities should be encouraged. As you can see, the differences between the two conditions are significant. it is important to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment for cognitive impairments related to Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Dementia: Let’s Talk Numbers:
These numbers were provided by The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada and the results are astonishing!
Worldwide, there are 44 million people who now have some form of dementia. In Canada, there are currently over 747,000 Canadians currently living with dementia.
1 in 11 Canadians over age 65 has dementia and 1 in 3 Canadians know someone with dementia.
The Arts and Health Network points out that if real action is not taken to prevent or decrease cognitive decline, by 2031, there will be over 1.4 million Canadians living with cognitive impairment.
Take a look at this infographic provided by The Arts and Health Network here for more information on Dementia and the Art.
How Does Dementia Impact Others?
According to the “We Rage, We Weep Alzheimer’s Foundation” based in Victoria, BC, family and friends provide most of the care for those with Dementia. Moreover, 70% of caregivers assume at least 80% of the financial burden of caring for their loved one. It is also reported that those with Dementia only leave their homes once a week. You can view additional information by checking out these statistics on Dementia.
What Role Does Making Art Play in Improving the Lives of Those With Dementia and Their Caregivers?
Participating in creative arts has proven to be an effective therapeutic activity that adds to the quality of life for both patients and caregivers. For those with Dementia, being involved in creative activity, such as music, dance, and the visual arts can help diminish and prevent the progression of cognitive impairment.
Arts and Aging: The Research:
Several case studies and small trials suggest that using art as therapy improves attention span, social behavior, and self-esteem along with neuropsychiatric symptoms and psychological resilience.
In a 2006 control-group study, Dr. Gene Cohen, a leading researcher on creativity and the aging process, found that those who participating in arts and cultural programming had:
An increase in overall health, positive moral, and improved response to treatment.
Positive improvement of depression symptoms, social isolation, and feelings of loneliness.
Fewer doctor’s visits and reduction on hospital stays.
Improvement on cognitive functions.
Decreased usage of prescription and over-the-counter medication.
Case Study – Amazement Through Art:
Alongside You had the pleasure of visiting with an elderly gentleman who was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. His find motor skills were a challenge to use, but he managed to hold a paint brush with the help of his caregiver. He had never taken to art before, but his caregiver had tried art with him at home a few times and he seemed to enjoy it. As we helped him pick colours, apply them to the canvas and washed his brush, he kept asking: “Who is painting this, who is doing this?” He could not make the connection that he was painting the picture in front of him. After several failed attempts to explain that it was he who was in fact painting with the brushes, we had the idea to take his picture and film a short video. After filming for a short while, we set the iPad in front of him along with his painted canvas. As he looked, he slowly came to realize that it was he who had painted it and he just started to laugh. With continued fits of laughter, he just couldn’t believe it was him! “That’s me? That’s not me! I can’t do that! But I see it’s me! There I am making the picture!” He was grinning from ear to ear and it was the most animated he had been all week. His sense of humour as a youth had returned in that moment and joy filled his heart and ours. Using art, we were able to step over the barriers of verbal communication and communicate in new and exciting ways. That day, art was truly transformational.
As can be seen in the case study above, art can be used as an effective tool to slow down cognitive deterioration, stimulate and engage patients and increases the quality of life of those affected.
Person-Centered Artistic Care:
Creative arts is not a cure for Dementia or any other Dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. However, it has the power to foster dignity and restore a sense of self. By unleashing the creativity in individuals, art encourages past memories to come to life and has the power to validate a person’s current situation. Mindfulness-Based Art Programing celebrates present tasks in a non-judgmental manner, focusing on the current capabilities of a person. Often, this process brings joy and makes meaningful moments, enhancing the relationships with those around them.
Revisit our page later for our next post…where we discuss how to begin using art with Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients!
 Anne Davis Basting, Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia. John Hopkins University Press. 2009: 124.
 Van Lith, T, Schofied, M and Fenner, P. Identifying the evidence base for art-based practices and their potential benefit for mental health recovery; A critical review, Disability and Rehabilitation. 2013.
 Anne Bolwerk, et al. How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity. PLOS ONE 9 (12): 2014
 Dr. Brian Cohen. The Creativity and Aging Study The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults Final Report: George Washington University. 2006:1-8