November 30, 2022
Taylor Kutsch fashions a flower at A Brush With Art, an outreach program of Alberta Health Services (AHS) Addiction and Mental Health in partnership with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge. “Coming here has really boosted my confidence, and it’s helped me in other areas of my life too,” she says. Photo by Sherri Gallant.
Brush With Art participant Mary-Ann Kozier finds the creativity offered in class “makes me more aware. I find that the week goes better — I’m more relaxed, I find my anxiety has decreased.” Photo credit: Photo by Sherri Gallant Photo by Sherri Gallant.
Guest artist Arianna Richardson, standing, a Lethbridge sculptor and performance artist, leads a workshop in A Brush With Art on making flowers from discarded plastic waste. Photo by Sherri Gallant.
Story & photos by Sherri Gallant
LETHBRIDGE — Participants in A Brush With Art say the program has given their confidence a boost and sparked — or in some cases, re-ignited — their pleasure in making art.
Clients from outreach programs with Alberta Health Services (AHS) Addiction and Mental Health say they’ve enjoyed exploring their creative side in the peaceful setting of an actual art gallery.
“The class runs at Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG) Wednesday afternoons in the gallery’s Creative Space,” says Carolyn Tivadar, a recreation therapist with Addiction and Mental Health. “It’s a Therapeutic Recreation program that aims to help clients use art to heal and promote balance in their mental health. They’re encouraged to use art to decrease stress, connect with others and promote a positive outlet for their unique expression. No previous art experience is necessary.”
Some clients do have previous art experience, however, and are discovering their creativity anew.
“A big reason why I like coming to this class is I feel it’s safe, and even if I don’t love my art, everyone else is always really supportive,” says Taylor Kutsch.
“So it’s boosted my confidence in my art here and in my art at home, — and it’s made me feel like I want to get more into my art at home. I painted and loved art for the longest time, but was a little bit down on myself, on my abilities. Coming here has really boosted my confidence, and it’s helped me in other areas of my life too, just to feel a little bit more confident.”
Project ideas are presented with samples. Clients are also welcome to be inspired and do their own thing. One of the program’s goals is to help clients feel more like they’re part of the community, and to provide access to cultural spaces to encourage engagement and inspiration.
SAAG has made a commitment to provide space for most of the fall program, and to supplement the current workshops with gallery-specific programming.
“When AHS approached us about possibly renting the facility, the more that we talked about what this program was offering participants and who it was serving, we knew that this was a group that is really underserved in the community generally, and we don’t often get to bring into the gallery,” says Heather Kehoe, SAAG program and event co-ordinator.
“There are some barriers that we’re aware of in entering and accessing these spaces, so if we can work with organizations that are already working so hard to make these really safe and engaging spaces for people — why wouldn’t we jump on that opportunity? It brings us people who don’t usually get to come into the gallery and enables us to teach them about the artists — and even bring in artists to make sure that they’re engaging with the Lethbridge community as well.”
Guest artist Arianna Richardson, a Lethbridge sculptor and performance artist, recently led the group in a workshop on making flowers from discarded plastic waste.
For client Mary- Ann Kozier, it was yet another project to take home and admire throughout the week — a reminder her of what she can accomplish.
“It’s opened up my awareness,” says Kozier. “I find I’m focusing on this and, when I go out, I see something I haven’t seen before. One day we were doing the leaves, and then after leaving here I noticed the leaves on the sidewalk in a new way. It makes me more aware. I find that the week goes better — I’m more relaxed, I find my anxiety has decreased.”
During the pandemic, Kozier took an online painting class with a friend who lives in another city.
“The art just helped both of us to focus more — and I find that it carries into other areas of my life. It helps the creative side of your brain.”