By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 30, 2024.
For the past five months, local teens have had the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about mental health through works of art, and some of their paintings have even been sold.
The artwork was exhibited Saturday at a Youth Art Show held at the Galt Museum to showcase the results of the students’ work. The after-school program was held at the Galt from September through January, and was a partnership between Wood’s Homes and the museum. Participation was open to Wood’s Homes clients as well as any teens in the city who wished to take part.
Zandy Schmidt, a youth employment counsellor with Wood’s Homes, said the youth based their creations on the question ‘what does mental health mean to you?'”
Schmidt said both Wood’s Homes and the Museum are hopeful that the impact has an impact on the wider community as well as the youth themselves.
“We’re hoping that the event and the program overall helps people see that art can be such a helpful tool in processing mental health struggles, and in connecting people in the community,” said Schmidt.
For Jade Young, one of the youth participants, the experience helped her to focus on moving forward. She described her inspiration for a piece titled ‘Aim.’
“It is all about the growth and aiming for growth on your journey,” said Young. “And there will be struggles. I included some wire, wrapping around a hand holding a flower. And the flower is supposed to represent the growth that you actually manage throughout your life.
“There are elements that also represent the struggles and falling, because there will be new challenges that you face throughout your life. And life isn’t perfect, but that’s when we repeat the process – just hold onto the bandwagon and keep trucking.”
More than a dozen paintings were featured at the exhibition, with all proceeds going directly to the youth.
“Each painting is a representation of the youth mental health, how they see it, it could be a personal reflection of their own struggles with mental health,” explained Schmidt.
“It might be a reflection of how the world views mental health in general. I think each youth approached it from a different direction, which makes it pretty special.”
Kristin Krein, community program coordinator at the museum, called the initiative a success.
“It just came at a really beautiful time to collaborate with that specific demographic,” said Krein. “And it really blossomed into this art program with seven young, dedicated artists, into the exhibition.”
Krein said she and other Museum staff got great joy out of having the teens at the museum.
“We are really close in proximity to Woods Homes, we share similar values,” Krien said. “And ultimately, there aren’t a lot of teenagers that come here to the museumâ€¦ They might not see themselves in museums. So, for me, youth are an incredibly important voice.”
Nash Epp, a youth employment counsellor at Wood’s, said he hopes that numbers will grow if the program is able to run again.
“Because this program was brand new, we didn’t see a large group of youth,” said Epp. “So, if we operated it again, we would hope to increase numbers so that more people could benefit from getting the support in this therapeutic kind of artsy environment.”
Young said she hopes those who see her art will feel the positive vibes she worked to convey.
“I hope they feel a sense of security or inspiration almost to know that they’re not alone, to know that it is OK,” she said. “And it is perfectly normal to get knocked down like one, or 200 times throughout this life and you’re gonna keep going through struggles in life big or small.”