“Art changes people and people change the world” – John Butler
When I first came to work with Family Service Regina I took an immediate interest in their Art for the Heart program. The program is dedicated to supporting those in our community who are in need of emotional healing due to domestic violence or other emotional trauma. Art for the Heart grew out of a previous program held at Family Service Regina called “Expression Nights.” Expression Nights were a monthly component of the weekly Domestic Violence Drop-In Group, providing an alternative way of addressing issues. Expression Nights allowed for therapeutic self-expression through creative arts and crafts rather than the usual teaching and sharing format of the domestic violence group. Those that participated in these Expression Nights became involved in the planning and helped to set the direction to start a new group that focuses on creative expression in a social setting. So began our Art for the Heart Program.
Through its evolution, Art for the Heart sampled many modes of creative projects, from flower arranging to music to drawing. It was when Aboriginal beadwork was introduced that the group really took off. Participants could not get enough, and consistently reported finding this a calming activity and a cultural experience in addition to being a creative outlet. Through this program, participants have access to cultural and recreational experiences that they may have been excluded from due to economic and relational circumstances. The program aids in managing stress, creating healthy coping skills, reducing anxiety, strengthening self-awareness, increasing self-esteem and enhancing social connection by encouraging relationship and community building.
When I started, I attended a few of the evening workshops over the course of several weeks and interviewed eight different women who had been actively participating in the group anywhere from two months up to two years. What was so admirable to me about these women was their courage to immediately delve into and share their stories with me, all the while remaining completely focused on their creative expression and beading. Some were beading tiny necklaces for their children and earrings for friends, while others created medicine wheels and spoke of their significance and history amongst each other.
Renee* was one of the first women I spoke with; she had been married for seven years and has four beautiful children under the age of 14. Two years ago she and her children escaped from her abusive husband to a women’s shelter, where they stayed for several weeks. She told me how she was committed to healing her family and creating a better life for her children and that’s what led her to Family Service Regina and the Art for the Heart program. “I’ve mostly found friendship and peace of mind” she said, as she continued to bead the intricate logo of her favorite music artist.
Participants exercise leadership within the group by sharing skills they have previously acquired and by encouraging each other as they learned together. The general atmosphere is one of mutual support. Women strengthen one another by sharing of themselves and providing words of encouragement and redirection to one another.
Art for the Heart program facilitator, Anna Obey pioneered the workshop in 2014. She wanted to find a way of engaging with clients by taking a non-directive approach which would enable the participants to freely express their experiences in a group setting. Anna teaches First Nations beadwork, how to use a loom, painting and other creative activities. The month’s activities are decided by the collective group.
The use of art to engage and strengthen those in our community by nurturing their creative talents is inspiring. Art for the Heart allows people the freedom to move into a space that revitalizes hope and increases their self-esteem.
Written by Carissa Tenton
*names of participants have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Art for the Heart takes place two evenings a week.
Located at Family Service Regina– 1440 Broadway Avenue
Register with Anna Obey at 306-757-6675
If you would like more information about our couselling services and coping with a traumatic event or to learn more about Family Service Regina and our programs, please visit our website, www.familyserviceregina.com or call our front desk to speak with a member of our intake team, 306-757-6675.
Our Art for the Heart Program is provided free of charge to all participants thanks to the generous support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, TCU Financial, Farm Credit Canada, The City of Regina, Community Initiatives Fund and Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women