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BLOG & THE NEWS

Filtering by Tag: Gabrielle Foss

Healing Art Donation For Kangiqsujuaq

Eva Wu

I first spoke with Candace Wilson at an Explorers Club meeting this past February. After learning about our Northern Lights project, this Toronto artist wanted to use her art to positively impact the community of Kangiqsujuaq.

Fast forward to April, I’m sitting in the living room of Candace’s colourful home. I came to pick up the series of chakras Candace generously agreed to donate to the wellness centre being built in Kangiqsujuaq. However - two hours later - along with the gorgeous paintings, I left with new knowledge about the ability of art to heal, and an increased appreciation for the importance of connecting with nature.

The donated chakra series includes 7 paintings, each a different colour of the rainbow. Candace explained the theory stating each colour resonates at a different frequency, the waves of which correspond to different parts of the body. For example, green heals heart-related illnesses, while teal supports recovery from throat or communication issues. In the paintings that are currently on their way up North, there are gemstones attached to the back, all of which are said to radiate healing energy.

Many of Candace’s works have found permanent homes in institutions like St. Michael’s Hospital and the Concussion Centre in Toronto. While creating healing art, Candace pays careful attention to details like using rounded instead of hard lines. I remember speaking to the students in Kangiqsujuaq about how shapes in photos convey emotions, so it was interesting to hear how Candace includes these techniques in her paintings as well.

What do a helicopter pilot, a sommelier, an entrepreneur, and a wilderness explorer have in common? Candace Wilson has been each one at some point in her life. As someone who has traversed both African deserts and Antarctic ice fields, Candace spoke passionately about the importance of spending time outdoors.

During her expeditions to the Canadian Arctic, she witnessed how the introduction of technologies (like TV and internet) have negatively impacted mental health in Northern communities. We discussed how the influx of Southern media creates feelings of worthlessness among youth. The media only showcases culture and beauty ideals from the South, not assigning any value to Northern people and practices. Candace believes these harmful influences should be replaced with traditional activities - like being out on the land - to boost self-esteem and hope for the future.

Our Northern Consultant, Ashley Cummings, had this to add:

“I think that the media portrays the bad in the north, but always only for brief periods of time rather than utilizing the power of media to get help...This gives youth the impression that the north is almost dirty, tainted with crime and sadness...I’ve heard friends say “I wish my skin were lighter” and “I really hope I move down south, I can’t wait to leave this place.” The media doesn’t show the beauty of the North in the landscape, culture, and most of all the people. It has just caused a lot of shame and instead of integrating the North and the South, it just segregated the two.”

At North in Focus, we believe that teaching skills in digital storytelling - through photography or videography - is one step towards empowering Northerners to share the beauty of their homeland. This will hopefully help strengthen Northern pride, as well as change perspectives in the South.

In conclusion, on behalf of the North in Focus team and the community of Kangiqsujuaq, I’d like to say a big thank you to Candace for her donation of healing art for the wellness centre. I’m confident the installation will have a positive impact on many.

Candace’s art (inlcuding gorgeous Arctic land and waterscapes) can be purchased on her website: www.candacewilsonartstudio.com

She can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CandaceWilsonArtStudio

Happy Spring everyone,

Gabrielle

"Art with Heart" Becomes "North in Focus"

Eva Wu

North in Focus Grass in Kangiqsujuaq

The Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In our case, Art with Heart is setting in the south, and a new initiative is rising in the north. After experiencing great success with our Northern Lights project in Kangiqsujuaq, we have decided to rebrand our organization. This is in order to more effectively reflect our focus on promoting mental health in the Canadian Arctic. 

Enter "North in Focus". This new identity encapsulates our desire to use digital media to showcase both the beauty and the struggles of Inuit communities. North in Focus will continue to lead workshops for youth, where students are empowered to use photos and videos to share their stories and spark conversations about mental health. While knowledge and memories live on in the minds of workshop participants, the art they create serves to teach and impact other community members.  

We are also looking forward to incorporating other methods of mental health promotion into these workshops! For example, we will be placing a bigger emphasis on sport in our next project. After witnessing how important sports are in the lives of youth in Kangiqsujuaq - and learning about Clara Hughes' work with Right to Play - we are confident that incorporating sport into the program will allow us to reach more students. I can say from personal experience that engaging in athletics is a stress-reliever, a confidence booster, and so much more. I am excited for this next step in the ongoing development our mental health workshop program.

On yet another positive note, we have begun planning our next project! This workshop will take place in Nain, Nunatsiavut. Therefore, the project name will reflect our goal of putting "Nain in Focus". We are currently in conversation with youth in Nain so we can get this ball rolling, and customize the program to the needs and interests of students at the Jens Haven Memorial School.

Cheers to the dawn of the next stage in the life of this organization,

Gabrielle

Post Project Reflection by Gabrielle Foss

Eva Wu

Gabrielle Foss after a few minutes outside in Kangiqsujuaq.

Gabrielle Foss after a few minutes outside in Kangiqsujuaq.

Warm. That is not the first word that would normally come to mind when one thinks about the Arctic. However, that is exactly the feeling that washed over me immediately after touching down in Kuujjuaq, QC, en route to Kangiqsujuaq to complete our Northern Lights Project. Within minutes of my first time setting foot in Nunavik, a local counselor named Mary Kaye greeted us with such friendliness that was hard not to feel right at home. This impression of being totally accepted and welcome in the North would not leave until the moment we touched down again in Montreal at the end of a fantastic week.

From our first night when the students showed their willingness to put up with our lack of volleyball prowess, to the last days when people took the time to take us dogsledding or give us a tour of the Pingualuit National Park interpretation center…to say that we were treated well during our short time in Kangiqsujuaq would be quite the understatement.

It is often said that food brings people together. This became evident during our first dinner of homemade sushi (featuring fresh Arctic char) with Marion, Madeline and Jamie Yaaka. This theme continued throughout the week as we shared one hundred Timbits with the students who love donuts just as much as we do, engaged in a bannock-making lesson by Sarah, and consumed copious amounts of chocolate-hazelnut heaven with Madeline and Jamie.

Powerful. That’s another word that came to mind during the week. Our remarkable landing in Kangiqsujuaq featured 90km per hour winds, giving us a small taste of the immense natural forces ready to be unleashed at any moment in the Arctic. And when we saw the sun illuminate the mountains across Wakeham Bay, or witnessed the Northern Lights dancing in the sky, the natural beauty was striking.

On the flip side of this intense environment are the people of Nunavik, who live and thrive on these lands. Resilient seems to be the best descriptor. This culture of physical and mental toughness became evident when our dogsledding guide was concerned about us being too cold while he himself had no gloves on in -43 degree temperatures. Strength was shown as well by the students, who were engaged and active participants in our workshop that started mere days after a tragic death in the community. Jessica, James and Yaaka displayed resilience as they spoke about historical trauma and its impact on Inuit people.

1 in 5 people have a mental illness, but 5 in 5 have mental health. This is a statistic that has always intrigued me, but became even more relevant during the Northern Lights Project. When Patrick asked the students, “do you know someone with a mental illness”, almost everyone said yes. This small survey proved how important it is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness in this community, so anyone struggling with their mental health will be able to get the help they need.

Next he asked, “do you have mental health”, and almost no one said yes. I think this is because the students thought we were asking, “do you have a mental illness”, not realizing that everyone has mental health – like physical health – that has to be taken care of. I was very happy to see the students grasp that idea that it is possible to have poor mental health without having a diagnosed illness, or good mental health while living with an illness.

One last thing that I realized was the importance of hands-on learning in the students’ lives. During the photography activities, I was amazed at how quickly they grasped concepts of aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and lighting. And how eager they were to put their new skills to the test! The pictures they created seriously impressed me.

Another form of hands-on learning happened every night in the gymnasium. I had no idea that sport was such a large part of these students’ lives, but as soon as we started playing volleyball with them, it was clear they had quite a bit of experience under their belts. During a discussion on self-care, they said that sports are beneficial to mental health because team activities allow them to support each other.

And it was through these games that Eva, Patrick and I were able to connect with the students. We all learned to trust each other, without even speaking a word, whether in English or our amusing attempts at Inuktitut. Nakurmiik for reading and stay tuned for more updates from the Northern Lights Project team!

-Gabrielle

Some of my pictures from the week can be found here: www.flickr.com/photos/gabriellefoss/

Northern Lights Project

Eva Wu

 
Eva Wu Design Northern Lights Logo
 

UPDATE

Back in August we posted a blog post titled, “AWH in the Arctic.” I was stunned when I reread it today because I realized just how much has happened since then. In that post we first introduced our goal to complete a photography and mental health workshop for youth in the Canadian Arctic. Now that plans are being solidified and tickets have been bought, I am so excited to update the AWH community on all the progress that has been made in the past 5 months!

The first step - that catalyzed the rest of the development of this project - was our partnering with Madeline Yaaka and her mother Marion. I met Madeline aboard the SOI 2015 Arctic expedition and at that time she expressed interested in having us lead the workshop in her community in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). The rest is history. We have been collaborating with Madeline and Marion since September, and we are so grateful for their support and can’t wait to visit their community of Kangirsujuaq, Quebec!

TIMELINE AND OBJECTIVES

Another important detail we should mention is when we have decided to complete this project. Last summer when Eva, Jennifer and I sat in a poutine shop and enthusiastically brainstormed ideas for this initiative, we planned to complete it within 2 to 3 years. After meeting Madeline, we thought we could be really ambitious and do it as early as May 2016. We worried about not having enough time and how we all have to get summer jobs in May to pay for university…

So naturally our solution to that hiccup was to aim to run this project even earlier, in February 2016! So now it is January, and we are busily finalizing details for our departure in a mere 27 days. Yet somehow, everything is coming together and we are ready to take off. We will be arriving in Kangirsujuaq on February 13 and staying until February 20. During that time, we will be leading a 5-day workshop for 12 students aged 13 and over. The workshop involves three major components:

1)   Educating the students about mental health

2)   Teaching basic photography skills

3)   Using photography so youth can express themselves and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the community

MENTAL HEALTH IN THE CANADIAN ARCTIC

Mental illness and suicide in the North is a complex matter. There are numerous possible causes for the current alarming statistics, but nevertheless, it is time to start finding solutions. Our project mentor, Marion, writes:

“At present, very few people in Nunavik seek treatment for mental health issues. Many individuals living with this problem are stigmatized as being “crazy” or “out of it” and are often ignored or shunned by other members of the community…We are now aware that 90% of all youth who die by suicide have an undiagnosed mental illness…Knowing more about the symptoms, causes and treatments may help individuals and family members understand what is happening and when to seek help.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME

Enter our project: Northern Lights. The name stems from the notion that depression is often referred to as darkness, and the goal of this project is to allow light back into the lives of youth whose mental health might be suffering. A skilled photographer knows how to manipulate their camera in order to let more light into a photo, consequently revealing beauty that darkness would otherwise mask. By teaching youth about photography, we hope this skill can transfer over to let them find beauty and joy in everyday life. 

NEW TEAM MEMBERS

We have also recruited two more team members to assist with this project. Patrick Hickey, who is also a first year student at Western University, is our Mental Health Awareness Advisor. He has been heavily involved in various mental health initiatives in his community of St. John’s, and has recently been working hard on the mental health activities for the Northern Lights workshop. In addition, Eric Foss will either be working as our Videography Advisor or as the Videographer for this project, depending on how much funding we can collect in the next few weeks! He was a photojournalist with the CBC for 30 years, and will contribute his skills and expertise to ensure we can put together a documentary after the project is over. This film will be shared via social media to raise awareness about mental health in the North.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

Thank you for taking the time to read this, feel free to get in touch with us if you would like to know more! We are psyched to soon be able to put our work to good use, and make a difference in this community. We hope to also take this opportunity to learn more about Inuit culture and daily life in the Arctic. Eva, Patrick and I are all very passionate about engaging youth and empowering them to reach their full potential. We believe that addressing mental health in the North is at the root of solving other problems that exist there and creating hope for the future of youth in Canadian Inuit communities.

Please like our Facebook page and follow our Twitter to stay updated with all the action that will be happening: leading up to our voyage to Nunavik, during the workshop, and upon our return when we deliver presentations and release our documentary.

https://www.facebook.com/artwithheart14/

https://twitter.com/artwithheart14

To make a donation to help us complete this project, please email us at: contact.artwithheart@gmail.com

Every dollar counts and goes a long way towards making this project a success!

Qujannamiik (thank you!),

Gabi

That reminds me, we have to learn some Inuktitut within the next 27 days…ikajunga (help)! Tavvauvutit (goodbye), for now.

THE FINAL PHOTOBOOKS

Eva Wu

During the 2015 Students on Ice expedition to the Arctic, I met a lovely young lady named Dani Gonzales. Over lunch one day we were able to chat about mental health, and it immediately became clear that mental health is a topic she is both knowledgeable and deeply passionate about. So after I was able to talk to all the SOI participants about Art with Heart, I was thrilled at her enthusiasm to help with distributing the final photobooks.

Staying true to her word, we recently met up in downtown Toronto and she got to work donating the final books to Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto Rehab Foundation, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. We are so thankful for the work Dani has done to help Art with Heart spread the healing impact of photography in Toronto!

Cheers and best of luck to everyone starting the school year this week!

Gabi

Dani Gonzales and her photobooks!

Dani Gonzales and her photobooks!

A.W.H IN THE A.R.C.T.I.C

Eva Wu

Hi there! This is Gabrielle here, doing my first blog post after returning from an eye-opening educational expedition to the Arctic with Students on Ice. I was able to participate in the expedition thanks to an extremely generous scholarship from the Leacross Foundation, and I took advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spread the Art with Heart impact above Arctic circle. I was able to donate 4 of our original photo books to an orphanage in Uummannaq, Greenland. 3 more books went to the community of Pond Inlet in Nunavut. The final book was supposed to go to the tiny town of Resolute Bay, Nunavut, but plane delays caused us to miss our community visit to Resolute. So the last photo book went home with a good friend and fellow Students on Ice participant who will donate it to a medical centre in her hometown of Carman, Manitoba. Here are a few of my reflections from the expedition and how they relate to AWH:

Giving 4 books to the children's home in Uummannaq, Greenland!

Giving 4 books to the children's home in Uummannaq, Greenland!

At the cultural centre in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, giving 3 photo books.

At the cultural centre in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, giving 3 photo books.

There are two sides to the Arctic. The part we often hear about in the news is the stunning natural environment - from the glaciers to the flora and fauna - that is being negatively affected by a rapidly warming climate. It is my preexisting awareness about these challenges that caused me to believe that natural sciences would be the sole focus of the 15th Anniversary Students on Ice expedition to the Arctic. And it is true that as we cruised past glorious icebergs up the lush west coast of Greenland, and manouvered between the rocky islands of Nunavut, we gained a deep understanding of the Arctic environment. However, I have also come away from this expedition with a reenergized passion for the other, less publicized side of the Arctic: the social element. This would also be a good time to say that Art with Heart would like focus most of our future efforts to help our neighbours in Northern Canada with the art of photography!

Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada.

Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada.

During our captivating and stimulating two weeks aboard the expedition vessel, we heard directly from Northern youth and established leaders of the Inuit community about the changes they would like to see in the North. Nunavut's rates of unemployment and suicide are the highest in Canada, life-expectancy and high school graduation rates are the lowest, and the inequalities don't end there. These problems are complex yet entirely preventable. Mary Simon and Udlu Hanson - two incredible ladies who represent the Inuit people in global conversations about business and policy development - spoke strongly about the crucial role of education in solving Arctic social and economic issues. A system has to be developed that incorporates Inuit culture, so that parents will be proud to encourage their kids to stay in school. Education leads to small businesses, jobs, long-term housing and waste solutions, and endless other possibilities. In addition, programs have to be included that will improve the mental health of youth, and create hope for the future of the Arctic. Enter Art with Heart.

Just as the early European explorers could not survive without the Inuit to guide them, in order for us to make a difference in the North we need to work closely with the people that live there. Through Eva’s expedition with SOI to Antarctica, and my recent Arctic voyage, we have been fortunate enough to build connections with some amazing people from the North who are deeply knowledgeable and passionate about their culture and communities. We hope to work with them to complete the following project goal: to do photography lessons for teens in a Northern community in order to provide a creative outlet, thus improving mental health. And at the same time we would put together a short documentary-style video to raise awareness about the Arctic when we return home. Many details still have to be put together for this plan to work. For example we have yet to decide what community in which of the four Inuit regions of Canada (collectively known as the Inuit Nunangat) to visit: most likely either Nunavut or Nunavik (Quebec). This initiative will also require a lot of grant applications and fundraising, however we have already gotten a head start on that front! Earlier this summer we reached out to BUFF Canada (http://www.buffcanada.com/) and explained our mission. They were so generous as to let us print 50 custom BUFF Originals to use as fundraising material! Eva - our talent resident graphic artist - whipped up an Inuit art inspired design and it was turned into a BUFF. I brought the BUFFs to the Students on Ice welcome home event in Ottawa on August 10, and $500 worth of these awesome products were sold! Thank you BUFF and SOI for the support.

Artist and Students on Ice educator Annie Petaulassie wearing her Art with Heart BUFF!

Artist and Students on Ice educator Annie Petaulassie wearing her Art with Heart BUFF!

Robert Comeau of the Youth Arctic Coalition spoke about the importance of involving youth in decisions made about the North. He stated, “Youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.” We are living in a time where the future of the Arctic is at a tipping point. It is being affected by countless pressures: governments trying to claim drilling rights, industries proposing shipping routes, Inuit people fighting to keep their culture alive, and the Arctic environment being threatened by rising global temperatures. Whether the scale tips one way or another, the youth of today will be living with the consequences. Art with Heart wants to do our part to ensure a healthy next generation of Arctic youth.

The Arctic is truly an amazing place to take pictures, I found it so fun and energizing to be out on deck taking pictures of the icebergs we passed.

The Arctic is truly an amazing place to take pictures, I found it so fun and energizing to be out on deck taking pictures of the icebergs we passed.

With university starting in a few weeks, we are all sure to be busy so the blog might be quiet for a while, but rest assured we are working hard behind the scenes to make this dream a reality. Until next time!

-Gabrielle

The Greenlandic town of Sisimiut, more of my expedition photos can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabriellefoss/

The Greenlandic town of Sisimiut, more of my expedition photos can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabriellefoss/

BUTTONS, THE ARCTIC, AND MORE!

Eva Wu

The buttons are IN! Most will be donated to the Dream Big Conference in Northern Ontario, and the rest we will use for fundraising purposes (more info on that to come). See picture below!

Eva Wu Button Design

Also, I have just learned that I will have to opportunity to voyage to the Arctic (Western Greenland and Northern Canada) this summer with Students on Ice, funded by an extremely generous scholarship by the Leacross Foundation (www.leacrossfoundation.ca)!! I am SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED for this expedition, and will use the pictures I will take, the information I will learn, and the experience I will gather to benefit Art with Heart's mission when I return! I hope to also bring a few Art with Heart photo books to donate to communities up North. 

Cheers (many, many cheers!!),

Gabrielle

PRINCESS MARGARET DONATION

Eva Wu

Three more books are off to give art a heart! We have just made a donation to the Princess Margaret Hospital, we are hoping to receive updates about where they were placed. In other news it seems like Spring has finally sprung in Toronto! We look forward to taking some photographs soon that capture the energy and uplifting feeling that comes with seeing the sun for the first time in months.

Cheers,

Gabi

One of the photobooks bound for Princess Margaret Hospital.

One of the photobooks bound for Princess Margaret Hospital.

Another of the photobooks, displaying an image inside.

Another of the photobooks, displaying an image inside.

SACHA'S SILENT AUCTION CONTRIBUTION

Eva Wu

We have printed two very large photo plaques to donate to the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area's Chocolate Fest & Silent Auction fundraiser! Hopefully our contribution will help SACHA raise money to support survivors of sexual violence, and end violence in Hamilton. This is just another innovative way Art with Heart is using our photography for good. Here are the pieces we have donated:

"On a bright sunny day, the majestic waters of Neko Harbour in the southwest region of the Antarctic Peninsula reflect back an image of pure serenity and freedom. The waters are clear and full of ice shaved off of nearby glaciers and the mountains are blanketed with snow-covered ice caps. In the distance a cruise ship steams by with hundreds of tourists on board, hoping to catch sight of some more penguins, whales, and seals."

"On a bright sunny day, the majestic waters of Neko Harbour in the southwest region of the Antarctic Peninsula reflect back an image of pure serenity and freedom. The waters are clear and full of ice shaved off of nearby glaciers and the mountains are blanketed with snow-covered ice caps. In the distance a cruise ship steams by with hundreds of tourists on board, hoping to catch sight of some more penguins, whales, and seals."

"A flowerpot is nestled in an ancient rock wall in the region of Agen, in the South of France. The sun illuminates its leaves and petals, just like this picture can light up any room."

"A flowerpot is nestled in an ancient rock wall in the region of Agen, in the South of France. The sun illuminates its leaves and petals, just like this picture can light up any room."

#ARCTIC CHALLENGE

Eva Wu

WHY AN ART WITH HEART CO-FOUNDER IS PLAYING IN THE SNOW IN SHORTS...

Gabrielle Foss Arctic Challenge

After attending the Arctic Climate Change Youth Forum in Ottawa last weekend, the immense challenges facing Canadians living in Northern communities were fresh in my mind. So, inspired by the insanely popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I decided to start my own awareness campaign: the #arcticchallenge

In order to raise awareness for the lack of housing, poor education, mental health issues, and the plethora of other issues facing Northern Canadians every day, I decided to take action in what seemed like a very logical way...I jumped bare-feet-first into a pile of newly fallen snow, and posted a picture on Facebook. Once I regained feeling in my toes, I nominated some friends to do the same (shoes recommended) and post a picture on social media with #arcticchallenge to raise awareness for our Northern neighbours. 

If you see this post, I challenge YOU to do the same! You can help this cause by donating to our Indiegogo campaign so we can use art to help teens with mental health issues up North. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/art-with-heart

Stay cool friends (which is easy to do when you play in the snow with no pants like I did),

Gabrielle