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Art project to bring light to youth living with mental health issues –



Holly Carr had a lot of plans for 2020. But like many artists across the world, COVID-19 restrictions forced her to pivot and stretched the limits of her creativity.

Before the pandemic, an immersive art show Carr had been working on for two years was finally coming to life as a theater production. She had several shows scheduled to start in the spring of 2020.

The show is based on an art installation called light in the forest, where Carr used silk hand-painted in vibrant colours to represent a forest. Carr built the installation for her son 14 years ago to calm his anxiety around the dark.

“It was the idea that even in the dark, there’s a little bit of light to look for,” she said.

Years later, the message of hope still resonated with Carr, especially after tragic events that saw her community lose a number of young people due to mental health issues. A show with music, live painting, and performers seemed like the best way to get the message across to as many people as possible. Carr also called the production light in the forest. One of the shows was to be held for students at Acadia University, with the aim of guiding them to mental health resources on campus.

“That was the plan … Who would have ever imagined where we are now? I certainly couldn’t,” she said.

Carr showing one of the silk curtains she hand-painted for her project. – Nebal Snan

A virtual journey

When Nova Scotia went into lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19, Carr didn’t know what that would mean for her project. But after hearing of the negative effect the pandemic is having on people’s mental health, Carr got an idea, or three.

Over the next few months, she would collaborate with numerous people to film the show and create an interactive 360-video version of it. She also decided to work with students to develop a mental wellness app with information about the resources available on campus.

The film, which will be available for people to watch in the third week of January, completed production in five days. At the end of the summer, Carr met with a small crew of six people to build the set and film the show, while maintaining social distancing. Her son was the videographer and editor.

“He was the initial inspiration for the whole thing when he was a little boy, which is kind of cool,” she said.

The second part of the project is the 360-video. It was used to create an interactive world that people can view online. Viewers can click on the objects on the screen and videos will pop up of the performers dancing or Carr live-painting. They can also read quotes that Carr picked to reflect the positive meaning behind the show: hope and resilience.

(Clock-wise from left-top) Aavha Gyawali, Jenna Floyd, Sarah Reid, and Jamie Symonds speaking about the mental wellness app they're developing with Carr. - Nebal Snan
(Clock-wise from left-top) Aavha Gyawali, Jenna Floyd, Sarah Reid, and Jamie Symonds speaking about the mental wellness app they’re developing with Carr. – Nebal Snan

Working with and for youth

The third piece of the project is the mental wellness app, which uses elements from the film. Carr reached out to Jamie Symonds, who teaches a software engineering course at Acadia University to work together on creating the app.

There were 26 computer science students on board. Carr has been communicating with the students and Symonds through video chat since the course started in September.

“It was good for the students to participate in a real-world project,” said Symonds. “They got to experience the ups and downs of remote work during this pandemic.”

Aavha Gyawali was one of those students. She co-ordinated between Carr and the class and oversaw the initial development of the concept behind the app and was “amazed by all the interesting ideas.”

Working on the app not only helped develop their software engineering and project planning skills, but it was also an opportunity to support a cause the students held close to their hearts. The app, which is targeted at students, will provide users with easy access to mental wellness resources on campus while interacting with calming visuals and sounds.

“It might not help everyone, but I hope it helps at least someone,” said Jenna Floyd, another student.

Stress relief resources

Resources range from available helplines to the closest yoga class or a suggestion to walk in the woods.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘go see someone’ because a lot of people are afraid of it,” said Sarah Reid, one of the students working on the app.

Reid said she knew a lot of people who could benefit from the app, including herself.

“Sometimes with school you get overwhelmed. It could be a small thing during exams that gets you stressed out … Sometimes the stress comes in the way and it really stops you from doing your work.”

She’s previously looked into using mental wellness apps to help her relax, so it was a great experience to be involved in creating one.

“Working on this I was super excited, and I loved watching it grow,” said Reid.

Carr said the app is still in the early development stage but it may be ready next year.

The film, virtual world and video are three ways Carr hopes to reach people who may be struggling during these difficult times. She has also launched a children’s book, also called “light in the forest,” early this summer carrying the same message.

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In Conversation With French Art Gallery Owner, Nathalie Obadia – Forbes



Nathalie Obadia, founder of her eponymous gallery with spaces in Paris and Brussels representing artists such as Fiona Rae, Laure Prouvost, Benoît Maire, Valérie Belin, Fabrice Hyber, Roland Flexner, Lorna Simpson, Sarkis, Manuel Ocampo, Wang Keping and Xu Zhen, discusses the pros and cons of online art fairs.

During the age of COVID-19, do you believe we’ll see more online art fairs worldwide in the future?

Online fairs were very important last year, but we already feel a weariness. Collectors do not visit all online viewing rooms. Some collectors said they are already tired of it. Since the ’60s, fairs and their success rely on the possibility to gather galleries, collectors, curators, press and artists. Nothing will change the physical perception of a work and meeting all the different actors of the art world. If in 2021, international art fairs cannot be organized, there will be less online visits. Nevertheless, it will strengthen local business in galleries in New York, Paris and London.

How has the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns worldwide affected the way in which you support your artists, collectors, curators and visitors, instituting new online content?

Until now and since March, we are lucky as this period went well. We sold several artworks online and at the gallery thanks to loyal collectors. We will have to adapt to a longer, and therefore structural change: less travels, less art fairs, less exhibitions of non-European artists, as they cannot come to France. We will focus on artists living in Europe.

What was the percentage of your online sales in 2019 versus 2020?

Our online sales grew by 30 % in 2020 compared to 2019.

Will you continue to participate in as many art fairs as before (whether physical or digital), or reduce the number?

Of course we will participate in fewer art fairs in 2021, as fewer art fairs will occur. Nevertheless, we will work on the French and Belgian markets, which are stronger than people are used to admitting. We will participate in international and strategic art fairs if they aren’t canceled, such as Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Basel Miami and more. Moreover, we will participate for the first time at Asia Now, which is a small and specialized fair in Paris that takes place the same week as FIAC contemporary art fair. 

Why did you decide to participate in the physical edition of Art Paris 2020 last September, after the fair had been postponed then canceled?

Nothing will replace a meeting at a booth and a collector looking at an artwork. Nothing replaces an exchange, a spontaneous discussion in front of a work or around art. It is also an opportunity to meet many people that we have not seen for months. We were very happy about Art Paris, which was a test. We learned to work wearing a mask for 10 hours and to recognize our collectors despite that. We concluded more than 20 sales, mostly to French collectors. That is a good sign and means that we have collectors in France despite what we usually hear. A third of our sales were made to new collectors. 

How has your vision of the future of the art world changed? Does COVID-19 spell the end of massive physical art fairs, or do you believe that they will be able to survive now and in the future and remain relevant?

Already before the pandemic, there was a sign of the system of fairs running out of steam: too many, too large. On one hand, we saw the big global international fairs like the three Art Basels, the three Friezes and the FIAC being organized, and already the energies of some of these big fairs were starting to run out because too many exhibitors put forward globalized international art. On the other hand, smaller boutique fairs like Art Genève, or more specialized like African art in 1-54, are becoming more interesting and will now perhaps be those that will be possible to organize and that will have more visitors.

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Works in group show at London art gallery examine year of pandemic – London Free Press (Blogs)



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A new exhibition at a city art gallery features works by more than 20 London-area artists exploring their experiences during the pandemic.

Westland Gallery is hosting the annual gallery artists’ group exhibition until Feb. 13 that includes works by artists who will be featured at the gallery this year.

Artists in the exhibition include Catherine Morrisey, Erica Dornbusch, Donna Andreychuk, Johnnene Maddison, Paul Lambert, Jane Roy, Carol Finkbeiner Thomas, Kim Harrison, Sheila Davis, Lisa Johnson, Denise Antaya, Andrew Sookrah, Brent Schreiber, Dana Cowie, Sharon Barr, Pat Gibson, Geoff Farnsworth, Eleanor Lowden, Jeanette Obbink and Jill Price.

“This year we encouraged our artists to submit artwork that reflected on their experiences during 2020,” said Danielle Hoevenaars, the gallery’s associate director.

“The artistic responses we received are as unique as each individual experience of this unprecedented year has been. Contrasting themes play a big role in this exhibition: loss of public spaces alongside reflections of the home, feelings of isolation alongside the pursuit of meaning, happiness and justice.”

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Cape Breton woman's COVID-19 inspired public art show features face masks and personal sentiments –




Bailee Higgins hopes her public art project will help promote an important public health measure while connecting people in the community.

I Wear A Mask For Sydney Mines is a series of digital portraits of people who live or work in Sydney Mines wearing masks, which are designed to reflect their personalities. Included with each portrait is a comment from the subject about why they wear a face mask or a little about their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a project that’s meant to bring people together since we can’t get physically together,” said Higgins, who is in the art education program at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax.

“And it’s a project that can encourage people to wear a face mask as a way to help protect everyone during the pandemic, which I think is an important message.”

“Mama says our masks make us superheroes.” #iwearamaskforsydneymines, digital portrait by Bailee Higgins. CONTRIBUTED


Created for a public art class Higgins is taking at NSCAD University, the Sydney Mines native received a Rising Youth grant so she could continue the project until March 1.

During the last week of February, she is planning a virtual livestreaming show of all the portraits she’s completed to this point. But the artist, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree from Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., plans to continue doing portraits until the end of the pandemic.

“I want to get as many people as possible involved so we can get as many people’s experiences included,” she said.


One participant who is a COVID-19 survivor living off-island wrote a statement that Higgins calls “powerful.”

In it, the woman said her health will never be the same again and that she wants to live in a world where people care about protecting people around them.

“Our cases have been pretty low here. So hearing from someone who has had it and is still suffering from the lasting effects is really powerful,” Higgins said.

“I am from Sydney Mines and am home all the time to see my family. We will retire and come home. I work in health care. I am a COVID survivor ..." #iwearamaskforsydneymines series by artist Bailee Higgins. CONTRIBUTED
“I am from Sydney Mines and am home all the time to see my family. We will retire and come home. I work in health care. I am a COVID survivor …” #iwearamaskforsydneymines series by artist Bailee Higgins. CONTRIBUTED


Alex Cormier saw Higgins’s Facebook post looking for subjects for the I Wear A Mask series and the mother of two said she wanted to participate in the project because protecting others is a message that hits close to home.

“It’s affected our family directly, the COVID pandemic. My mother had COVID and now she suffers long-term effects from COVID. Her lungs are permanently damaged,” Cormier said about her decision to be a model in the series.

“If by helping promote the message that face masks work, if we can protect anyone else’s mother or grandmother or father or someone else in the community by wearing masks, then we should do what we can to get that message across.”

“... As a community pharmacist, I have been involved in front line primary care, doing our best as a team to keep our staff and patients safe.” #iwearamaskforsydneymines digital portrait series by artist Bailee Higgins. CONTRIBUTED
“… As a community pharmacist, I have been involved in front line primary care, doing our best as a team to keep our staff and patients safe.” #iwearamaskforsydneymines digital portrait series by artist Bailee Higgins. CONTRIBUTED


Each digital portrait takes about an hour and a half to complete and is done on an iPad with a special pen which allows the artist to draw right on the screen.

To date, Higgins has completed 40 portraits and hopes to finish at least 100 by the time the pandemic is over.

Anyone interested in being a model in the I Wear A Mask For Sydney Mines series can contact Higgins by email at [email protected], through Facebook messenger on the project page or by phone at 902-578-9444.

Nicole Sullivan is an education, enterprise and diversity reporter for the Cape Breton Post. 


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