So, it looks like I might have fallen off of the face of the earth for the last while now. My last post being June, 16, 2016. To catch anyone reading up to speed, Ive made the move to work in a First Nations community in Northern British Columbia, Canada…The gorgeous North Coast.
If you’re not familiar , this is a place thats very remote and removed from society. However, theres an abundance of wildlife, beauty and nature. This has been a pretty big change for me, coming from my previous urban living arrangements of Vancouver and Chicago. Its safe to say that its been a large adjustment moving to a community of 700 people.
While my days have been filled with lots and lots of rainy weather, my heart has been fuller. I got a dog and have taken this time to look at life in a different way that I might not have before. I learn as much from the children and youth I work with as they learn from me.
I provide counselling services at a k-12 school where I am also privileged to implement art therapeutic techniques. Now that I have adjusted, I am finally able to think about what I want to share.
The first thing that comes to mind is the importance of art in regards community, sharing, and resiliency.
It is probably by no chance that while I was studying in Chicago I worked as a research assistant. During this time, a colleague and I created a youth program that was geared towards youth located on the south side of Chicago. This program aimed to help youth understand the social determinants of health (SDH) in order to further foster community resiliency. If you can guess, my part in this project largely to pertained to implementing art directives that aimed to help the build resiliency through protective factors and self-esteem.
So here I am, three years later. In a place that I wouldn’t have imagined at that time. However, I am still working with helping undeserved youth, to utilize the power of art to build community and resiliency from an individual level outwards.
Art can be historically viewed as an important method of sharing and bonding with one another. This notion has an amplified importance within First Nations Culture. For the reader, it is important to understand that historically, First Nations art has been used as a form story telling in order for individuals to learn about themselves, and further pass on culture.
This is an imperative cycle that was impeded on and broken during Canadian colonialism. If you are not familiar with this history I recommend some simple searches and reading in regards to the alarming assimilation of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
With that being said, in order to be able to write about the importance of art and resiliency, we need to be able to understand that this culture was taken from First Nations. Therefore, reintegrating the priority of these practices is a long and painful journey.
It is incredible to see the amount of traditional art that is implemented within the school that I work in. However, I think that its also important to get to the very base of art making as a process . Every child that I interact with possess an incredible talent, interest, and ability to create.
Everyday I’m a witness to the importance of a child’s self-esteem. It is imperative for children to be able to understand their value . Within this community specifically, there is an everlasting value that pertains to creativity .
In order for children to be able to understand their value through creativity, they need a safe place to build this self-esteem where they are able to be witnesses to their own talents.
When working within groups , children and youth are able to find a common ground through the stories that they create within their artwork. The images that they create are things that come from within.
If we are getting to the base of building community, communication and active listening are imperative. Working in groups and creating artwork, aids individuals in the ability to find a common ground through images. While it is not always easy to sit and talk. Creating images provides the ability to laugh together, and share creative expression, therefore removing many communication barriers that may exist.
When young people are able to sit and use their inherit abilities to communicate, they are further able to work towards building protective factors such as acceptance, self-esteem and self-confidence. If children are given the space and time to share artwork with one another and appreciate what one another as made, they are able to gain insight in regards to each-others perspectives . The idea of understanding each other’s perspectives is a building block towards empathy. Lastly, social groups and art groups for children and youth can also help them to gain a further sense of individual empowerment when they get a sense of ownership in regards to what they have created.
Giving kids the time of day to explore these parts of themselves and socialize with each other in a low pressure setting that fosters resiliency can help to curb behavioural issues that you might be seeing at home or at school. If you are a caregiver or educator I suggest trying this technique of giving children a safe place to play and explore with each other. This can be as simple as a social hour once a week, the activities don’t need to be therapeutic.