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Creativity Helps Our Community Cope Through Lockdown

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When Terisa paints, she feels like she’s meditating. She is focusing on what she is trying to create, deciding what colours to mix on her palette, and thinking of what emotions her painting is trying to evoke in others.

Engaging in a creative activity has proven mental health benefits. It can lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost a person’s self-confidence, and help take a person’s mind off of negative thoughts.

Artbeat Studio helps connect people living with mental illness with their creative side, offering artists studio space, equipment, workshops, and peer support. Artbeat helps them to develop artistic skills, find meaningful work, and giving people a sense of community.

But community can be hard to find during a pandemic. A new partnership between The Vic Foundation and Artbeat is helping to bring creativity and its mood-enhancing benefits to the homes of people in our community. Participants will receive art kits, instructional videos, and journals featuring art and activities from Artbeat artist residency alumni to help them express themselves and stay creative from home.

Not only will this project help artists who are new to Artbeat, but alumni who have had their art chosen to be featured in the journal will receive an honorarium.

Uyen Pham, Executive Director of Artbeat Studio, hopes that the new initiative helps people distract themselves from anxious thoughts and negative feelings, both of which have been hard to escape during the pandemic.

“Anything where they can express themselves creatively without judgement, and just experience that joy,” she said. “That is what keeps someone truly well. It gives them purpose.”

Terisa knows first-hand the joy that comes from creative expression. She was first recommended to get in touch with Artbeat for her anxiety in 2008. She assumed that she would only stay with the organization for the first six months of her studio time.

“I certainly didn’t expect to get what I got [out of Artbeat] at the time,” she said. “I was really struggling and I had always practiced art all my life, and thought it would be a good thing for me to work in the studio.”

Over the years, Terisa has had two solo shows at Artbeat Studio, has worked at the Artbeat Studio store, and has been teaching acrylic painting to seniors. All of this has been made possible through connections at the studio. Not only that, but Terisa feels like being a part of Artbeat has significantly boosted her confidence, and thinks that creating art decreases her symptoms of anxiety and helps her to release endorphins.

“I’m just so grateful. The fact that people here are so non-judgmental and so encouraging,” she said. “A person gets so much compassion because so many people here have been where we are.”