Art In The Time of COVID-19

Art In The Time of COVID-19

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.


Street Murals

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:

  1. 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.

  3. 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.

  5. 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!

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

Benefits to Bringing Art Into Everyday Life

bringing art into everyday life - alongside you ladner bc

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

by Meg Neufeld and Mary Ann Burrows

Everyday life can be monotonous, full of repetitive tasks and, yes, even dusty, from the time we wake until we hit the hay.

Finishing off the last bites of our regular breakfast of choice, most of us face the day trying to get through our never ending “to-do” list of chores and errands, care for family members and drive carloads of folk from one appointment or activity to the next.

Art, however, can bring vibrancy to our daily grind. Art sparks curiosity and creativity; it makes the colourless colourful, the dull bright and the dreary shine.

Not sure how to add a little art and creativity to your day? You might be surprised… you may already be doing it.

Creative activity awakes the senses and can mean doing anything from taking a walk through a museum, gardening, making a batch of cookies, viewing the local high school theatre production, making a card for someone, writing in a journal, knitting, taking photographs or painting a picture. In the process, we’re creating.

By making decisions about what we like and don’t like, we’re on the path to discovering our own interests, opinions and tastes.

Art helps us to think about the world around us in new and exciting ways, and helps us discover more about ourselves as individuals and what we want to share with those around us.

When we do something creative we are “self”-making.

Not only does art allow us to self-reflect, it has a positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing.

Research shows that participating in creative activity can have a positive influence on health outcomes.

It can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety; improve memory, problem solving and other cognitive functions; increase cardiovascular health and help address daily mobility and balance issues; improve social isolation and crossgenerational learning; and provide an outlet to explore difficult emotions while promoting personal growth and healing.

It can also be used as a tool to manage persistent chronic pain and a variety of other chronic illnesses.

Consider the satisfaction you get when finishing a page-turning book, the calm you feel as you view a beautiful sunset

filled with indescribable colours, the connection you feel when you share your passion with someone else, the wonder when you paint something new, or hear music that moves your soul.

Whether you are drawn to the visual, literary, performing arts, design, music or dance, creative moments like these help us to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle and they enrich our everyday life.

We look forward to walking with you as we explore themes on arts and aging, mental health and wellness, inspiring and creativity boosting activities, and share with you art stories on influential people, places and things.

For now, take some time this month to connect with your creative side by trying something new, or to reconnect with something you haven’t done in a long time.

The time is now: live An Art Full Life!

Meg Neufeld is a cultural anthropologist, practicing mixed-media artist and program director at Alongside You, a health organization that offers a multi-disciplinary approach to health, and where creative activity is encouraged amongst people of all abilities for overall health and wellness. Mary Ann Burrows is an artist, and the president and founder of Artists in the Village, a non-profit society that focuses on inspiring creativity within each other and the community through connection, expression and awareness.

Self Portraits As Self-Discovery

Self Portraits as Self-Discovery

All are welcome to participate in our weekly mini-tutorials at the beginning of each Open Studio Session for approximately 20 minutes. For those who want to work independently, the rest of our Ladner studio is at your disposal.

See Yourself In A New Way

Self-portraits as Self- Discovery: Creating your self-portrait is harder than it looks!  How do you see yourself? What do you stand for? What colours represent you? What words or statements? Create your self-portrait from mixed mediums: collage, self-drying clay, scratchboard, sketching, acrylic painting, or even alter a photocopied picture of your face.

self portraits as self-discovery

Social Health Benefits of Creativity

social health benefits of creativity

Create and Connect: The Social Health Benefits of Creativity!

Creative activity has a long history of being done in community with other people!

Artistic traditions around the world have master-artist-apprentice relationships, craftsman guilds, groups of artists and societies who work side by side swapping creative ideas, techniques, tools of the trade, and most notably social engagement and comradery. Just like Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh (along with Paul Cézanne, and Emily Bernard), Canada’s own Group of Seven, or even our own local Artists in the Village Society and South Delta Artists Guild, artists get together to discuss their opinions and share their art. The social health benefits of creativity are not a new concept, people have been experiencing it for years!

Doing something creative with others is not simply something we do for fun, it’s good for us too!

Those that create in the presence of others are:

  • More likely to have wider social networks
  • More likely to have a sense of purpose and belonging in a group
  • More likely to have a reduced sense of social isolation and marginalization

This is just the beginning of the social benefits of creativity! Let’s look at one of the groups that makes up a large part of South Delta, and is near and dear to our hearts: seniors.

The Importance of Creative arts for at Risk Populations: Seniors

Seniors have been classified as a high risk population for social isolation. Initiatives such as The Arts and Health Project: Healthy Aging Through The Arts recognize the role creative arts play in the health of seniors. Vancouver Coastal Health, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation along with other associations and local communities, collaborated on this project to encourage and develop creative arts programs for seniors to benefit their overall sense of wellbeing and belonging. Below is a link to a video giving you a taste of what the project is all about!

Introductory Video For the Arts and Health Project

Specifically for seniors, doing something creative enhances quality of life and provide the following benefits:

  • Less need for medications
  • Fewer visits to the doctor
  • Reduction in loneliness
  • Increase in daily activities
  • Better physical health
  • Better morale
  • Wider social network to draw from in times of need

The social health benefits of creativity are wide and far reaching, especially for seniors! See this great graphic on Creative Aging by Arts and Health Network Canada that explains this these points further. Not a senior? There’s great benefits for you too, read on!

Here are a few things that you can do right now to experience the social health benefits of creativity!

  1. Join a club, guild, society, or group based on your own creative interests (creative writing club, pottery guild, book club, artist’s group). It’s likely you’ll meet a wide range of people who have a passion for the same things you do and who can also teach you something new! Try social sites like Facebook or MeetUp to find a group based on your own creative interests and geographical area.
  2. If you’re not quite at the face-to-face meet and greet stage, join an online/virtual community based around your particular creative interest (a photography board, a scrapbooking site). This allows you to post pictures of your creations, get feedback, search for ideas on your next project, and ask questions about particular techniques. As long as you are contributing and participating in this virtual community the social health benefits are there.
  3. Incorporate creative play into your social life! Switch it up and skip the movies! What about playing some board games with your family and friends for some laugh-out loud-fun? Pictionary, Teletrations, and Cranium are great games that use words to spur on drawing or sculpting actions. Here is a list of a few other games that use storytelling and words that will really get your creative juices flowing and have your group howling with laughter!

Our Open Studio Sessions Promote Social Interaction

Social interaction is the foundation for the social health benefits of creativity. If you are not already aware, our Open Studio Sessions are quite different than your typical art class and here’s how:

  1. Our Open Studio Sessions are for all ages
    • So many artistic programs are segregated based on age, which makes it hard for many do to art together. Our program is open to anyone of any age!
    • This means that families who have children with different age-ranges can make art together, grandparents can make art alongside their grandchildren, and even friends or spouses can come for a night out or bring their parents for a special time together.
    • We are all about creating an environment where creativity is being shared cross-generationally.
    • We have a special rates for kids under 13, families, and seniors!
  2. Our Open Studio Sessions are open to anyone and inclusive of all abilities
    • We encourage people who have different physical, medical, mental, emotional, and developmental abilities to attend our sessions and work alongside each other. The social health benefits of creativity are especially important across ages and abilities.
    • Community programs are wonderful for accommodating their target population, but most can only offer programs based on age and diagnosis. This prevents people with different diagnoses and ages from spending time with each other in creative and social environments. Families, siblings and close friends may also have a limited opportunity to do something together.
    • We want to promote an environment of inclusion by giving people of all abilities a place to meet and mingle with others who are both similar and different from them.
    • We also want to give much needed respite support to caregivers by offering them a place to unwind and do something creative!
    • If you are on Income Assistance or Persons With Disability benefits, your sessions are half-price, and personal attendants are free!
  3. Our Open Studio Sessions are flexible
    • We have no expiry date on gift cards for Open Studio Sessions, and our sessions run every Monday evening and Wednesday during the day. Other art programs often have a set number of classes, rigid schedule, and fees where your payments expire.
    • We understand that because we are social beings, life gets busy and sometimes other things (mental health issues, chronic pain, travel, children) may get in the way of attending sessions regularly. This is why we have such a flexible program, and why our multi-session gift cards have no expiry date.
    • Being part of a community means creating activities around community needs and this is what we have tried to do.
  4. Our Open Studio Sessions cater to a variety of interests
    • We know that people all have different interests so we have stocked our art studio with a wide variety of art materials that you can choose from during your visit. You can socialized with your loved ones, or meet new people while working on something that is completely unique and of interest to you! You can even switch to something else whenever you want.
    • We offer gentle guidance and instruction during art sessions at the beginning of each class.
    • Here are a few of the things we have in our art studio: 
      • Acrylic paint (Kroma Paint from Granville Island), oil paint and tempera paint
      • Water-colour crayons, pencil crayons, pens, liquid and pallet paint
      • Scrapbooking paper, punches, and other accessories
      • Oil and chalk pastels
      • Beads and jewellery making accessories
      • Huge assortment of drawing implements pens, pencils, ink pens, markers, crayons, pencil crayons, geometry kits, shapes and templates
      • Adult Colouring books, how-to books on techniques, books on calligraphy and lettering, on contemporary and historical artists
      • Large assortment of still life objects and images for creative inspiration
      • Variety of paper, canvas board, cardboard suitable to use for pen, sketching, water-colour, tracing, pastel and charcoal. Bring your own canvas or purchase one for nominal fee
      • Scratch board
      • Lino-cut and soft-cut printmaking
      • Wood-burning tools. Bring your own wooden object or select from ones from our collection for a nominal fee
      • Air-drying clay
      • Magic sand and white-sand
      • Assortment of kid-friendly craft materials for collage
      • More creative arts activities are available — if what you are interested in is not on our list, just ask!
  5. Special Interest Classes
    • We have started to develop programing geared towards the interests and tastes of our community.
    • Our Be Inspired Spring Break Camp is providing an opportunity for kids to get involved with art over Spring Break!
    • We currently have a Friday Night Knitting Club that meets once a month! It is for all ages, genders, and stages (beginners to advanced). Basic instruction is offered and shared by those who attend. Entrance is by donation and all proceeds go toward our Step Forward Program. Read about the event here.
    • We want to listen to you! If you have a programming idea from the community and want to share it with us, get it touch.
    • We have a few programs in the works, so check back with us and wait and see what we have coming up!

We look forward to having you in the studio to experience the social health benefits of creativity for yourself!

social health benefits of creativity
social health benefits of creativity
social health benefits of creativity
social health benefits of creativity

Creative Arts And Health

creative arts and health

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 

— Pablo Picasso

Creative Arts and Health

We are starting a new blog series called the impact of creative arts and health. The posts in this series will talk about a range of health topics and give you some ideas on how to incorporate more creative activities into your daily life!  We are also going to highlight some of the resources we offer in our art studio.

What are the real benefits of the creative arts and health?

Listening to music, writing in a journal, painting or sketching, or being part of a social group such as a drama group or book club is an effective way to stimulate the brain, and anyone can do it. We know it’s good for us, but in what ways?

Mental Health Benefits

Participating in creative activity can reduce stress, strengthen the immune system and protect against depression and anxiety. Doing something creative gives your brain a break from usual stresses and thoughts. It can improve self-confidence, self-esteem and positive identity. People who create art are more likely to practice self-reflection, self-care, and are more likely to be open to positive perceptions of their own health and their goals about their own health.

Social Health Benefits

People who engage in creative activities are more likely to have wider social networks, have a sense of belonging and purpose, engage in volunteering and are less likely to feel isolate and marginalized. Art provides an increased opportunity for multi-generational interactions and reduces discrimination between ages. All of this combines to provide a greater chance at a satisfying quality of life!

Brain Health

Challenging ourselves creatively can improve our memory, problem solving, maintain neuro-spactial functions as we age, and improve our ability to recall information and recognize and be aware of the world around us. Art gives our brains a workout!

Path to Healing

Creative engagement can provide an outlet for healing for those who have suffered abuse or trauma, and provides an avenue that may help us cope with a transitional event or stressful change in life. Artistic activities can be used as ways to explore emotions or a path to healing and can even be used to express ideas and solutions to larger social issues (addiction, bullying or domestic violence as an example).

Chronic Pain

Doing something creative can help us manage persistent pain and other chronic illnesses. It can be used as a distraction tool to keep the focus off the pain or illness and can aid in calming the mind and body.

Practical Strategies for Using Art To Improve Health At Home

Here are three quick exercises you can do at home to relax, de-stress, and get those creative juices flowing:

  1. Get your doodle on! Doodling is a great way to loosen up the mind and start to relax the body. Take a break and let your hand start moving and your imagination flow. Experiment with different lines, shapes, textures, swirls, and before you know it, you will have covered a whole page! Begin with a sheet of plain paper and start with a dot or line in the middle, the next step is up to you!
  2. Play dough is not just for kids! Pick some up from the store, use your own recipe, ask a friend or search online. Squash, stretch, and roll your stress away. Add essential oils for an extra boost of therapeutic benefit! Great to do with kids or on your own!
  3. Kinetic Sand or fine-grain sand!  If you haven’t yet tried any of these, they’re awesome! Kinetic Sand is a great sensory product that moves and melts in your hand is relaxing to play with. Fine grain sand also has Zen-like properties. Whether you choose to go to the beach or write your name in a sand tray using a rake or your finger, the act of moving sand in different directions and making different patterns is another great way to release tension.

Creative Arts and Health at the Alongside You Open Studio Sessions

Join us for coffee and tea in our Open Studio Sessions to unwind

We have a huge selection of gel pens, pencil crayons, markers, and more for all your doodling needs! We stock play dough for those of all ages, and have both kinetic and fine-grain sand if you are curious and want to give them both a try!

  1. Get your Zentangle on. Zentangle is a drawing activity invented by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, designed to make drawing meditative and accessible to all. Patterns and shapes are drawn inside a 3.5″ square piece of paper. It’s very mesmerizing and there is no erasing allowed! We have Zendoodle Kits, pre-cut papers ready for use, a wide variety of ink pens, Zendoodle books full of pattern ideas, and books on how to incorporate colour into your designs.
  2. Make prayer bead projects (necklaces and bracelets).  Many different groups of people, cultures and faiths have used beads in a variety of ways for reflection and contemplation. We have a variety of beads, charms, string, hemp, and jewellery-making tools and supplies at your disposal. Try something new and add it to your day as a reminder to take a moment yourself to breathe!
  3. Take up Knitting! We have a wide variety of knitting needles and yarn at your disposal! We even have a monthly Friday Night Knitting Club if that is of interest to you! The repetitive nature of activities such as knitting helps to quiet the nervous system, releasing dopamine, a natural anti-depressant!

Resources On The Impact of Creative Arts and Health

For a more detailed study on the benefits of Creative Arts and Health, check out the following resources! We hope they’re helpful for you and if you have questions we’re more than happy to sit down over a cup of coffee or tea and chat about it with you!

The Benefits of Crafting on Mental Health

CNN Article and Video Segment

Health and Art: An Overview

The art of being healthy: a qualitative study to develop a thematic framework for understanding the relationship between health and the arts. Davies, C. R., Knuiman, M., Wright, P., & Rosenberg, M. (2014). BMJ Open, 4(4), e004790–e004790.  Guided by the biopsychosocial model of health and theories of social epidemiology, the aim of this study was to develop a framework pertaining to the relationship between arts engagement and population health that included outcomes, confounders and effect modifiers.

Types of Creative Arts and Health

The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–63.This review explores the relationship between engagement with the creative arts and health outcomes, specifically the health effects of music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing. 


creative arts and health
creative arts and health
creative arts and health
creative arts and health
creative arts and health