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The healing power of art – Coast Reporter

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The other day, while gossiping with a friend, she used the phrase “emotional palette” in a description of her general state of mind. 

It’s a cool metaphor – one that is compellingly evocative. And one that can help us better visualize and describe the state of our mood. Think about having the blues. Or a rosy disposition. Or, heaven forfend, be in a black state of mind. White with rage. 

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I’m not surprised about the ubiquity and utility of this metaphor, because colour is everywhere and we are primarily visual creatures. 

We are also, crucially, hearing animals. Sound (and as we shall see, music) is a vital facet of our sensory experience. 

And it is for these reasons that art – in the doing as well as in the observing – has such a deep connection to and effect on our well-being. 

I first began to wonder about the power of art when I was 10. We lived in London, and every weekend I’d take the tube to one of the many museums and galleries in that great city. What struck me was the sense of peace and reverence evident on the faces of the adults around me. Ten-year-old boys did not frequently experience that from grown-ups. 

In my own, private life, my greatest sense of self and inner harmony came when I played my guitar. Still does. Some musicians call that state the “zone.” 

It was years later, as a friend studied and then practiced art/music therapy for kids, that I made a few connections. 

When I asked why this (sometimes controversial) therapy had such a positive effect, she hypothesized that experiencing art ignored the rational aspect of the mind and instead directly engaged deeper, more fundamental processes. 

More recently, when I was on the board of the Arrowhead Clubhouse Society, by far the most frequent budgetary request from members was for art programming. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. 

So, you ask: What’s going on inside the brain? There is a lot of very detailed, arcane work out there, but in general there are three broad ideas that are quite sufficient for a general understanding. 

First, studies have shown that experiencing/doing art increases blood flow in the medial prefrontal cortex. This is a major reward centre of the brain, and increased activity there has led to improvements in mood among folks with eating disorders, addictive behaviours, and mood disorders. 

The second observed effect is a lowering of the hormone cortisol, which is associated with stress as well as the so-called fight-or-flight state. We can all do with less stress, and it seems like art is a way to achieve that. 

The third brain state is one that leads – as I mentioned above – to the “zone” or “flow” state. When we are there, we lose ourselves, are in the moment and utterly present. We are relaxed yet fully attentive, and deeply attuned to our sense of pleasure. There is interesting neurophysiology to explain this, but for today I think that would ruin the fun. 

I should add, with emphasis, that one need not have huge talent or skills to achieve the benefits mentioned above while doing art. Indeed, in most of the research, just doodling was sufficient. 

So, find a pencil and paper and go looking for your zone.

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Qaumajuq—new name of Winnipeg Art Gallery's Inuit art centre—an act of decolonization – WellandTribune.ca

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​The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre has a new name.

In a ceremony on Oct. 28, the gallery, known as WAG, announced the centre would be renamed Qaumajuq [HOW-ma-yourq], an Inuktitut word meaning “It is bright, it is lit”.

Qaumajuq is set to open in February 2021 after construction began in March 2018 on a new 40,000-square-foot-building designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture with Cibinel Architecture. It’s home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.

The WAG building itself was given a name in Anishinaabemowin—Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah [BEEN- deh-gen Bi-WAH-say-yah], meaning “Come on in, the dawn of light is here” or “the dawn of light is coming.”

The naming ceremony was hosted by Dr. Stephen Borys, director and CEO of WAG. The ceremony occurred with a small gathering of Borys and Julia Lafreniere, WAG manager of Indigenous Initiatives. A Qulliq lighting ceremony was conducted by Elder Martha Peet, with virtual appearances from Theresie Tungilik and Elder Dr. Mary Courchene. The latter two formally announced the new names in Inuktitut and Anishinaabemowin respectively.

Tungilik, an Inuk artist from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, said “Qaumajuq will be a place where all walks of life will experience, through the creation of Inuit art, our survival, hardships and resilience.”

Courchene, who comes from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, said the Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah name was created to “include all the Indigenous populations of Manitoba, the First Nations, the Métis, and the Inuit populations.”

“The language keepers and Elders came together in a powerful moment of cross-cultural reflection and relationship-building,” Borys said. “This initiative is an act of decolonization, supporting reconciliation and Indigenous knowledge transmission for generations to come in an effort to ensure WAG-Qaumajuq will be a home where Indigenous communities feel welcome. Where everyone feels welcome.”

In addition to the new name of Qaumajuq, which will serve as the primary name for the space, various areas within the WAG will also have new names in Inuvialuktun (Inuit), Nêhiyawêwin (Cree), Dakota, and Michif (Métis) that were given by Indigenous language keepers.

“Indigenous-focused and Indigenous-led initiatives will be at the heart of this new space and giving the spaces Indigenous names is just the start,” reads the WAG’s website where pronunciations and audio clips for the new names are available.

“We are thrilled to share the names of the spaces in the seven Indigenous languages of Manitoba and Inuit Nunangat,” said Dr. Heather Igloliorte and Dr. Julie Nagam, co-chairs of the Indigenous Advisory Circle for Winnipeg Art Gallery, in a joint statement.

“The Circle demonstrates the breadth of knowledge that represents the relationship to the collection and the buildings and it has been an incredible experience for all Circle members. We are so honoured to gift the institution with these new names that point to a new path forward for galleries and museums in this country,” the statement continued.

The WAG also states that the “historic naming responds to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 13 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 14i, both of which reference the importance of Indigenous languages.”

Article 13 reads:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

TRC Call to Action 14i states:

Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.

A press release issued by WAG states that Qaumajuq “will innovate the art museum, taking art from object to full sensory experience with Inuit-led programming.” One of these features includes the three-storey tall column called the ‘visible vault’ that is filled with thousands of Inuit carvings and immediately viewable upon entry into Qaumajuq.

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“This is a place that amplifies and uplifts Inuit stories, connecting Canada’s North and South. This is a site for reconciliation… We can’t wait to unveil this new cultural landmark in the heart of the country with these new names honouring Indigenous voices and languages,” Borys said.

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Art-loving couple helping Bayfield arts hub get off the ground – Toronto Star

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A Bayfield-based arts non-profit is moving forward with plans for an arts centre in the Huron County community, thanks to a large donation from a local couple.

The Bayfield Centre for the Arts (BCA) has purchased a building on the village’s edge that will be transformed into a 1,115-square-metre visual arts hub.

“The concept of a Bayfield arts centre had been cooking for several years, but I wanted to formalize the vision . . . in terms of acquiring a building and bringing together a number of art organizations under one roof,” said centre president Leslee Squirrell.

Squirrell said the new facility will include an art gallery to showcase local artists and travelling exhibits, plus studio spaces and rooms for workshops.

A variety of arts will be featured, from new media and photography to painting, pottery and woodworking.

“We do have a big vision,” Squirrell said. “Even though the centre itself might be located in Bayfield, the purpose is to be a destination arts centre. It’s for the broader local community and those all over the county.”

Purchase of the building, at Highway 21 and Cameron Street, was made possible by a “significant financial donation” from Huron County residents Mac Voisin and Marcela Bahar.

“This state-of-the-art facility will benefit generations to come,” Voisin said. “(We are) delighted to be part of this project.”

Along with educational workshops and art showcases, Squirrell said they plan a mobile art truck that will let the centre take programming on the road across the region.

A film festival is also in the works, spurred on by the recent shooting of the movie Trigger Point in Bayfield.

The film’s director, Brad Turner, lives in the Lake Huron village seasonally and is a BCA adviser, Squirrell said.

The centre now uses a converted barn on Bayfield’s Main Street as a temporary home.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has been holding outdoor painting and photography workshops.

“We’re doing the best we can to continue to create our vision even though COVID has created obstacles,” Squirrell said.

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She said the picturesque village is the perfect backdrop for a Southwestern Ontario arts hub, since it’s already a popular tourist destination with many local artists nearby.

“We’re an incredibly beautiful, ideal, creative type of community on Lake Huron,” Squirrell said.

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Art-loving couple helping Bayfield arts hub get off the ground – WellandTribune.ca

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A Bayfield-based arts non-profit is moving forward with plans for an arts centre in the Huron County community, thanks to a large donation from a local couple.

The Bayfield Centre for the Arts (BCA) has purchased a building on the village’s edge that will be transformed into a 12,000-square-foot (1,115-square-metre) visual arts hub.

“The concept of a Bayfield arts centre had been cooking for several years, but I wanted to formalize the vision . . . in terms of acquiring a building and bringing together a number of art organizations under one roof,” said centre president Leslee Squirrell.

Squirrell said the new facility will include an art gallery to showcase local artists and travelling exhibits, plus studio spaces and rooms for workshops.

A variety of arts will be featured, from new media and photography to painting, pottery and woodworking.

“We do have a big vision,” Squirrell said. “Even though the centre itself might be located in Bayfield, the purpose is to be a destination arts centre. It’s for the broader local community and those all over the county.”

Purchase of the building, at Highway 21 and Cameron Street, was made possible by a “significant financial donation” from Huron County residents Mac Voisin and Marcela Bahar.

“This state-of-the-art facility will benefit generations to come,” Voisin said. “(We are) delighted to be part of this project.”

Along with educational workshops and art showcases, Squirrell said they plan a mobile art truck that will let the centre take programming on the road across the region.

A film festival is also in the works, spurred on by the recent shooting of the movie Trigger Point in Bayfield.

The film’s director, Brad Turner, lives in the Lake Huron village seasonally and is a BCA adviser, Squirrell said.

The centre now uses a converted barn on Bayfield’s Main Street as a temporary home.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has been holding outdoor painting and photography workshops.

“We’re doing the best we can to continue to create our vision even though COVID has created obstacles,” Squirrell said.

She said the picturesque village is the perfect backdrop for a Southwestern Ontario arts hub, since it’s already a popular tourist destination with many local artists nearby.

“We’re an incredibly beautiful, ideal, creative type of community on Lake Huron,” Squirrell said.

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