By Zandra Juarez, GAC Volunteer
Guelph Arts Council is pleased to announce that its 2021 Youth Opportunities Award goes to Alexa Colette, Maeve Hind, and Jessica Wilson, all students at the University of Guelph with an interest in psychology and the arts. They have presented a proposal to provide opportunities for youth to be involved in community-engaged art making. Their intention is to engage other students in a call for submissions for two 6’x8’ murals to be painted within the halls of the clinic and explore ‘healing, wellness, and resilience’ as main subjects. Students will work collaboratively on the murals and receive honoraria for their work.
This project began as a connection between the Maplewoods Centre for Family Therapy and Child Psychology and Alexa, Jessica, and Maeve. In an email, the group shared: “Margaret Lumley, the Director of Clinical Training, reached out to us with the knowledge that art is vital in spaces that focus on and provide services for mental health.” The next step was assessing the project outreach, possible impact, and the physical space for it. Then, the group considered their priorities for the project: “thematizing the murals, accessibility, and prioritizing marginalized muralists.” They launched a call for submissions on January 17, seeking to prioritize spaces for individuals who self-identify as: Indigenous, Black, POC, LGBTQ2I+, individuals with mental health conditions, including addictions, and people with visible and/or invisible disabilities. “We are committed to making this project accessible for all participants,” they emphasized.
Jessica Wilson is in her fifth year of undergraduate studies, double majoring in Studio Art and Philosophy. She runs Naeco Studio through which she facilitates art as therapy, via workshops and art-based community care initiatives. She also walks-the-walk and uses the platform to share her work as a practicing multidisciplinary artist.
Alexa Colette is a multidisciplinary artist based in Guelph, currently completing a double major in Studio Art and Psychology. Maeve Hind is an interdisciplinary artist living in Guelph, also studying Studio Art and Psychology. Maeve Hind and Alexa Colette are the co-founders of Outlet Collective, which is a space dedicated to process-based art-making and open discourse about mental health.
The recipients also shared their goals and motivations for this project:
- “Murals in spaces that provide mental health resources to community members have the power to not only express care and make the space feel lighter, but they’re also an opportunity for representation (…) fostering understanding and belonging.”
- “Guelph arts community giving artists opportunities to engage with spaces such as this one bridges worlds and nurtures connections.”
- “There is also something to be said for art’s impact on the mental health of staff members, who will see these murals each day and be reminded of the positive impact of the work they do for the community members they engage with.”
- “Additionally, murals allow for the art’s longevity to be shared with many for years to come.”
Last but not least, when asked about what they expect for the future of their work within their own disciplines and as they relate to art, they said:
“My experience as a practicing artist will allow me to troubleshoot with artists in real time, and my Philosophy degree gives me the communication skills to do it. (…) Working one on one with community members for projects you believe in is the surest way to build the required skills for my desired path.” -Jessica-
“For me, Studio Art and Psychology have always gone hand in hand, and bleed into each other in new ways all the time. (…) My experiences will help me to approach projects and work with a sensitive understanding of the mind, and with the experience to use art to explore ourselves and each other.” -Maeve-
“I am continually learning about accessibility, with the aim of bringing non-judgemental art-making to more individuals in the community. (…) My degree has allowed for experiences that further my understanding of people and creative processes, both of which are essential to moving forward with art facilitation, whether it be through art therapy, community programming or education.” -Alexa
“[It is our hope] that with the growing interest and need for art-based community initiatives such as this, the inspiration for future projects is kickstarted.” -Jessica, Maeve & Alexa as a group-
In announcing the recipients of this year’s award, Guelph Arts Council Executive Director Patti Broughton says: “We are excited about this project and grateful to be able to offer this award annually thanks to the GAC Youth Opportunities Fund managed by The Guelph Community Foundation. GAC would like to be able to provide even more funding to support projects that engage youth in the arts and welcome any expressions of interest from potential donors in our community.”