Artist Dreams of Community Art Hives


Art supports health of community: Brian Nichols

Brian Nichols thinks there should be more opportunities for people to answer the calling to be creative and make art.

The artist and psychotherapist would like to see hubs around the city of Peterborough where people could drop by and paint or sketch or play as they please. His wish is to have an open studio or studios in the community that are available to all, seven days a week. It would be a space “where people can stop in and create and where artists show up to share their sense of creativity.”

Montreal provides a fine example.

The city has 37 art hives. An art hive is a community art studio that welcomes everyone as an artist. From a pop-up in a local library to a community studio or gallery, an art hive is about inclusion, respect and learning.

“Art is a better outlet than turning to alcohol or other vices. We don’t really give people, for the most part, opportunities to work through those experiences.”

Brian knows art plays an important role in community. He’s witnessing first-hand how art is a healing process and how the act of creation builds meaningful connections for people.

The artist co-facilitates a weekly, drop-in community art group at The Mount Community Centre called You Can Make It Art.

Through this group, open to people of all ages, regardless of their conditions and abilities, he’s catching a glimpse of what he’d like to see more of for the future in Peterborough. There are about 25 regular participants who have challenges ranging from disability to recovering from trauma and/or are coping with loneliness.

“I don’t think we do enough in our communities to support people,” Brian says.

“Art is a better outlet than turning to alcohol or other vices. We don’t really give people, for the most part, opportunities to work through those experiences.”

Art offers people the chance to confront issues they struggle with on a daily basis. It’s a private exercise. “We don’t ask what peoples’ needs are or what their trauma might have been as we’re not doing therapy.”

However, art is considered to be so therapeutic in the UK, the British Health Secretary is contemplating giving physicians the ability to write a prescription for art. The initiative will enable the country’s doctors to prescribe therapeutic art-or hobby-based treatments for ailments ranging from dementia to psychosis, lung conditions and mental health issues.

“There’s no question for me that people find a happiness in themselves and in the world by being (in the community art group),” Brian says.

“The folks that we see are feeling very alone and very isolated. This bypasses money, resources and intelligence and makes a more level playing field.”

While he doesn’t expect to see a plethora of community art hives in the near future, he will continue striving to raise the profile of art and its impact on the community’s well-being.

Brian and the other facilitator, Mary Lou Green, are trying to expand and showcase what they’re doing to make agencies aware of how art-making can benefit their clients.

In addition, “we’re trying to get the schools involved to show that artists have something important to contribute,” Brian says.

“It’s not just about selling our work, it’s about being part of this community and supporting its health.”

In the meantime, the sessions at The Mount continue to run from about 9:30-11:00 a.m. on Tuesdays at 1545 Monaghan Rd.

Admission is $5 per person per session or pay-what-you-can or free and includes all supplies.

All are welcome.

For more information, please call Mary Lou at 705-740-0078 or e-mail Brian at bnichols@cogeco.ca.

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