WELLNESS and the Arts

By Jody Farrell

Rob Smith

Rob Smith’s Grande Prairie office is more like a large, homey living room, with the sun streaming in on earthtone walls and warm wood flooring. A sprawling bookshelf hosts a library of reference material: music on CDs, books and manuals on wellness, nature, and healing grief. All within an arm’s reach from the big comfy sofa and armchairs. Drums and interesting artifacts, and messages of serenity and hope abound, and yet the space feels open and airy.

Smith’s background in adult education and social work set him onto the path of people who had suffered trauma or loss. He’d provided public education to a local women’s shelter, and worked with people in a victims assitance program. He eventually developed his own practice around healing through creativity.

“Grief work is about loss,” Smith explains. “Loss can have come with death or divorce, but can also involve something less definite; say the loss of meaning or purpose in our life.”

Healing what is lost requires giving voice to our pain, our broken heart, he says. This does not generally happen by talking about our experience in a conventional counselling session. This kind of healing is more of a spiritual journey, having to do with our heart and soul. Some think spirituality is only tied to religion, but Smith sees it as exploring what the deepest voice in us – the one that longs for goodness and happiness – has to say.

“Most of us who’ve been through trauma can relate to feeling deep hurt at a core level. There’s some truth to the saying ‘I have a broken heart.’ We need to give that hurt a way to express itself.”

smith-painting.jpgSmith is not an art therapist. He finds, however, that creative expression, be it in music or art, poetry and writing, or even gardening, moves a person into the right-brain mode that somehow gives the elusive pain or loss an outlet. No prior creative experience is necessary to produce something from this more symbolic, intuitive side. It’s a comfortable and invigorating experience to be led into. He may invite you to use paints, drums or ink imprinting of your body, depending on what it is Smith and you decide is a good way to approach your grief issues.

The results are long-lasting. For some, two or three sessions may answer their needs. The goal for Smith is simply to get to a place that allows us to say what our heart wishes to say, and then to come back and look at that expression with a more left-brain, grounded approach. In what we have created, we find answers, and Smith says these always include some message of hope.

“The work not only releases the hurt. It opens a new and hopeful journey. Our heart’s greatest desire is to have a happy life. Creativity taps us into that.”

Karen LongmateRecently, Karen Longmate found herself standing beside a wheelchairbound patient, admiring one of the original artworks that hung in the hallways of the QEII Hospital in Grande Prairie.

“He couldn’t speak, so he used a word board and communicated that the paintings reminded him of when he used to ride through the pastures,” Longmate recalls.

The exhibition of local artist-carpenter Dale Sales’ paintings depicting farmlife, gave the man back some of his past. His comments gave Longmate a whole new sense of this person she’d only known as a patient.

Longmate, visual arts coordinator for the hospital, will often see staff, visitors or patients, stopping to look at the works. Sometimes people discuss their reactions. Other times they appear to be reflecting on something personal that the work may have evoked. Like so much that is produced artistically, including poetry and music, artworks seem to touch something deep inside people, resonating, perhaps, with an experience or feeling they have known.

“The hospital is a sensitive and serious place,” Longmate says. “For many of us, it creates a level of anxiety. The art, by contrast, creates a familiar element. It somehow transports the viewer. We can live vicariously through art. We are calmed by it.”

The QEII Hospital Foundation, with support from Peace Country Health, is responsible for the hospital’s visual arts project. It includes a permanent collection of some 600 original artworks, about two-thirds of which are exhibited throughout the hallways and wards of the hospital. Regional artists’ works are also on loan for exhibitions. Sales’ paintings were hung in the Courtyard Gallery, located on the lower level near the hospital cafeteria. Display cubes, featuring three dimensional works such as sculpture, jewellery and pottery, are also on display in and near MacKenzie Place.

PotteryLongmate is passionate about the role the arts can play in health care institutions. She attended an international conference on partners in health care last June in Edmonton, where the University of Alberta Hospital is renown for its work putting artists on its wards.

“They have found that (artist on ward programs) offer people a chance to gather around as a family, even take pictures. That kind of thing is often very sensitive when there is not something other than the patient to focus on,” Longmate explains.

And while these kinds of projects may not be currently available in the QEII, the possibilities alone are exciting.

“I think that in the hospital, where we often tend to think of being sick and looking for an outside, medical answer, we have the opportunity to introduce the idea of discovering in ourselves what makes us feel better” says Longmate.

“If we have accessed something that has come from within and made us feel healthier, more alive, we may then go home and learn how to reintroduce it into our lives there. Hospitals have a captive market for that kind of teaching.”


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Mountain town panorama keeps them inspired By Jody Farrel http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Clusters of Blue by Evelyn Sutter" align="right" height="275" width="180" />

Evelyn Suter

Evelyn Suter's Clusters of Blue is a pretty convincing argument for the monoprint's contribution to the world of painting and prints. Something in the marks that are added to and subtracted from the work give it a sumptuous textural look that isn't found in traditional watercolour. Yet, the soft and airy quality that often gives watercolour the edge over more textured paints is still very present.Suter's own excitement around the process is catchy, and she converted many new enthusiasts at an exhibition in Grande Prairie two years ago. One can almost read in her animated explanation of the sheer mystery of the monoprint process, that she seeks out wonder in life and is willing to risk losing a little control to get it."It's that element of surprise I love," Suter says. She generously shares the process in workshops.This sense of wonder may have influenced her choice to retire to Grande Cache five years ago. Its "pristine views" and a great campaign to get people to relocate drew her there.But, like many who are inspired by life and its many mysteries, Suter is hardly the retiring type. She integrated into the community soon after her arrival, discovering Palette Pals, an arts group that meets and exhibits locally. She is currently its past president. Suter credits a photography course she took years ago with giving her a keen sense of composition. "Everything I do is evocative," she says of her intention in her work. "When it's successful, it calls to people, and tells them something."

http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Baneberry by Joan Beland" align="right" height="176" width="225" /> Joan Beland

Like many artists, Joan Beland experimented with paints in her search for the medium that best suited her personality and style. The Grande Cache artist found oils too messy, and while she did like acrylics and had used them for years, she still works in ink and pencil, it was watercolour that best captured her mark."I like detail, and like to draw," Beland says. Watercolours afford her that combination of drawing and colour. They also give the self-professed lover of all things tidy a chance to play around without wreaking havoc. "You can get such a variety of colours without making a mess. They really suit the way I paint."She loves nature, and while some of her work depicts the town's mountainous landscape, Beland is finding herself more drawn to nature close-up and still life these days. Her Baneberry watercolour, as well as one of Mount Hamel, is currently on tour with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX Exhibition Out on the Mountain, Deep in the Woods. The show features selected works of The Grande Cache Watercolour Society, and is made available through The Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie. TREX coordinator, Sue Cloake Millar, notes that the intimacy of the baneberry painting is what caught her eye in selecting works for the exhibition.Esteemed Grande Cache painter and mentor Robert Guest says Beland consistently does good work. Beland is humbled by the praise. "I don't work outside," she confesses. "I work from pictures I take. I like to be comfortable, and have everything in place. Even my housework must be done." http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Sharing the News by James Harvey" align="right" height="266" width="200" />

James Harvey

As James Harvey casually rattles off contributions to advertising and commercial illustration over his several decades-long career, you can't help but wonder how he wound up retiring in Grande Cache. The baby face on the Gerber cereal box; the Alberta wild rose design, the Edmonton Oilers and Travel Alberta logos are just a few of the marks he produced in a field that has seen tremendous change over the years. He'd worked in New York, Toronto and Winnipeg before moving to Calgary and Edmonton. He'd worked for the CBC, Imperial Oil, Proctor and Gamble, and Alberta Tourism and saw graphic design and advertising explode into the powerful medium it is today.Harvey and his partner Trudy moved to Grande Cache in 2002 after witnessing the towns spectacular mountain panorama while visiting friends. It's where he first tried watercolours, having only ever used felt pen in his commercial design work. His paintings still bear that illustrative style; they are unique in their combination of watercolour and felt marker hatchings. His drawing Sharing the News, reminiscent of once popular newspaper and magazine illustrations, tells a layered story of man's relationship with nature and how tuned out we sometimes are to what is real."I'm no teacher," Harvey says dismissively. Still, he has an affinity for getting people to create, and is an active mentor-participant in the Grande Cache Watercolour Society. He was recently made its president and has created a logo and poster for the society's May- June show.Grande Cache may remind Harvey of childhood years in Northern Ontario, where his father was a bush pilot and conservationist. The mountain town seems to have restored some deep-seated passions he alludes to having lost before moving there. He has all kinds of building and art projects on the go, and speaks with conviction about Grande Cache's potential to house a northern fine arts centre."It's a wonderful little town," he says. "The people here are so neat."
12 years ago

Mountain town panorama keeps them inspired By Jody Farrel http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Clusters of Blue by Evelyn Sutter" align="right" height="275" width="180" />

Evelyn Suter

Evelyn Suter's Clusters of Blue is a pretty convincing argument for the monoprint's contribution to the world of painting and prints. Something in the marks that are added to and subtracted from the work give it a sumptuous textural look that isn't found in traditional watercolour. Yet, the soft and airy quality that often gives watercolour the edge over more textured paints is still very present.Suter's own excitement around the process is catchy, and she converted many new enthusiasts at an exhibition in Grande Prairie two years ago. One can almost read in her animated explanation of the sheer mystery of the monoprint process, that she seeks out wonder in life and is willing to risk losing a little control to get it."It's that element of surprise I love," Suter says. She generously shares the process in workshops.This sense of wonder may have influenced her choice to retire to Grande Cache five years ago. Its "pristine views" and a great campaign to get people to relocate drew her there.But, like many who are inspired by life and its many mysteries, Suter is hardly the retiring type. She integrated into the community soon after her arrival, discovering Palette Pals, an arts group that meets and exhibits locally. She is currently its past president. Suter credits a photography course she took years ago with giving her a keen sense of composition. "Everything I do is evocative," she says of her intention in her work. "When it's successful, it calls to people, and tells them something."

http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Baneberry by Joan Beland" align="right" height="176" width="225" /> Joan Beland

Like many artists, Joan Beland experimented with paints in her search for the medium that best suited her personality and style. The Grande Cache artist found oils too messy, and while she did like acrylics and had used them for years, she still works in ink and pencil, it was watercolour that best captured her mark."I like detail, and like to draw," Beland says. Watercolours afford her that combination of drawing and colour. They also give the self-professed lover of all things tidy a chance to play around without wreaking havoc. "You can get such a variety of colours without making a mess. They really suit the way I paint."She loves nature, and while some of her work depicts the town's mountainous landscape, Beland is finding herself more drawn to nature close-up and still life these days. Her Baneberry watercolour, as well as one of Mount Hamel, is currently on tour with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX Exhibition Out on the Mountain, Deep in the Woods. The show features selected works of The Grande Cache Watercolour Society, and is made available through The Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie. TREX coordinator, Sue Cloake Millar, notes that the intimacy of the baneberry painting is what caught her eye in selecting works for the exhibition.Esteemed Grande Cache painter and mentor Robert Guest says Beland consistently does good work. Beland is humbled by the praise. "I don't work outside," she confesses. "I work from pictures I take. I like to be comfortable, and have everything in place. Even my housework must be done." http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Sharing the News by James Harvey" align="right" height="266" width="200" />

James Harvey

As James Harvey casually rattles off contributions to advertising and commercial illustration over his several decades-long career, you can't help but wonder how he wound up retiring in Grande Cache. The baby face on the Gerber cereal box; the Alberta wild rose design, the Edmonton Oilers and Travel Alberta logos are just a few of the marks he produced in a field that has seen tremendous change over the years. He'd worked in New York, Toronto and Winnipeg before moving to Calgary and Edmonton. He'd worked for the CBC, Imperial Oil, Proctor and Gamble, and Alberta Tourism and saw graphic design and advertising explode into the powerful medium it is today.Harvey and his partner Trudy moved to Grande Cache in 2002 after witnessing the towns spectacular mountain panorama while visiting friends. It's where he first tried watercolours, having only ever used felt pen in his commercial design work. His paintings still bear that illustrative style; they are unique in their combination of watercolour and felt marker hatchings. His drawing Sharing the News, reminiscent of once popular newspaper and magazine illustrations, tells a layered story of man's relationship with nature and how tuned out we sometimes are to what is real."I'm no teacher," Harvey says dismissively. Still, he has an affinity for getting people to create, and is an active mentor-participant in the Grande Cache Watercolour Society. He was recently made its president and has created a logo and poster for the society's May- June show.Grande Cache may remind Harvey of childhood years in Northern Ontario, where his father was a bush pilot and conservationist. The mountain town seems to have restored some deep-seated passions he alludes to having lost before moving there. He has all kinds of building and art projects on the go, and speaks with conviction about Grande Cache's potential to house a northern fine arts centre."It's a wonderful little town," he says. "The people here are so neat."
12 years ago

Mountain town panorama keeps them inspired By Jody Farrel http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Clusters of Blue by Evelyn Sutter" align="right" height="275" width="180" />

Evelyn Suter

Evelyn Suter's Clusters of Blue is a pretty convincing argument for the monoprint's contribution to the world of painting and prints. Something in the marks that are added to and subtracted from the work give it a sumptuous textural look that isn't found in traditional watercolour. Yet, the soft and airy quality that often gives watercolour the edge over more textured paints is still very present.Suter's own excitement around the process is catchy, and she converted many new enthusiasts at an exhibition in Grande Prairie two years ago. One can almost read in her animated explanation of the sheer mystery of the monoprint process, that she seeks out wonder in life and is willing to risk losing a little control to get it."It's that element of surprise I love," Suter says. She generously shares the process in workshops.This sense of wonder may have influenced her choice to retire to Grande Cache five years ago. Its "pristine views" and a great campaign to get people to relocate drew her there.But, like many who are inspired by life and its many mysteries, Suter is hardly the retiring type. She integrated into the community soon after her arrival, discovering Palette Pals, an arts group that meets and exhibits locally. She is currently its past president. Suter credits a photography course she took years ago with giving her a keen sense of composition. "Everything I do is evocative," she says of her intention in her work. "When it's successful, it calls to people, and tells them something."

http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Baneberry by Joan Beland" align="right" height="176" width="225" /> Joan Beland

Like many artists, Joan Beland experimented with paints in her search for the medium that best suited her personality and style. The Grande Cache artist found oils too messy, and while she did like acrylics and had used them for years, she still works in ink and pencil, it was watercolour that best captured her mark."I like detail, and like to draw," Beland says. Watercolours afford her that combination of drawing and colour. They also give the self-professed lover of all things tidy a chance to play around without wreaking havoc. "You can get such a variety of colours without making a mess. They really suit the way I paint."She loves nature, and while some of her work depicts the town's mountainous landscape, Beland is finding herself more drawn to nature close-up and still life these days. Her Baneberry watercolour, as well as one of Mount Hamel, is currently on tour with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX Exhibition Out on the Mountain, Deep in the Woods. The show features selected works of The Grande Cache Watercolour Society, and is made available through The Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie. TREX coordinator, Sue Cloake Millar, notes that the intimacy of the baneberry painting is what caught her eye in selecting works for the exhibition.Esteemed Grande Cache painter and mentor Robert Guest says Beland consistently does good work. Beland is humbled by the praise. "I don't work outside," she confesses. "I work from pictures I take. I like to be comfortable, and have everything in place. Even my housework must be done." http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/clusters-of-blue.jpg" alt="Sharing the News by James Harvey" align="right" height="266" width="200" />

James Harvey

As James Harvey casually rattles off contributions to advertising and commercial illustration over his several decades-long career, you can't help but wonder how he wound up retiring in Grande Cache. The baby face on the Gerber cereal box; the Alberta wild rose design, the Edmonton Oilers and Travel Alberta logos are just a few of the marks he produced in a field that has seen tremendous change over the years. He'd worked in New York, Toronto and Winnipeg before moving to Calgary and Edmonton. He'd worked for the CBC, Imperial Oil, Proctor and Gamble, and Alberta Tourism and saw graphic design and advertising explode into the powerful medium it is today.Harvey and his partner Trudy moved to Grande Cache in 2002 after witnessing the towns spectacular mountain panorama while visiting friends. It's where he first tried watercolours, having only ever used felt pen in his commercial design work. His paintings still bear that illustrative style; they are unique in their combination of watercolour and felt marker hatchings. His drawing Sharing the News, reminiscent of once popular newspaper and magazine illustrations, tells a layered story of man's relationship with nature and how tuned out we sometimes are to what is real."I'm no teacher," Harvey says dismissively. Still, he has an affinity for getting people to create, and is an active mentor-participant in the Grande Cache Watercolour Society. He was recently made its president and has created a logo and poster for the society's May- June show.Grande Cache may remind Harvey of childhood years in Northern Ontario, where his father was a bush pilot and conservationist. The mountain town seems to have restored some deep-seated passions he alludes to having lost before moving there. He has all kinds of building and art projects on the go, and speaks with conviction about Grande Cache's potential to house a northern fine arts centre."It's a wonderful little town," he says. "The people here are so neat."
12 years ago