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Wellness through the arts

artsPlace artist collaborates with Right From The Start Success Coach to teach visual arts lessons helping students understand mental wellness concepts

“Nature has its different seasons and cycles, just like people do,” says Artist Libby Amber Pryor. “By looking at nature, we can learn mental wellness strategies to care for ourselves. It’s important to have a balance between rest time and being active in our lives, in the same way that nature rests in the winter, and comes to life in the summer. This flux is normal. It is the same with our emotions, it is okay to feel great one day, and down another. Those ‘bad’ days only make us appreciate the good ones even more.”

Every season throughout this school year, students will meet with Libby online for a wellness through the arts class.

“It has been lovely to have a virtual peek inside the classroom and get to add some creative time to the student’s day! I have really enjoyed seeing students’ excitement through the screen as they get to enjoy some creative play,” says Libby. “I can see the wonderful skills and values they are building with Right From The Start, and I feel happy to be able to build on those ideas through art.”

Wellness through the arts
Wellness through the arts
Wellness through the arts

Right From The Start (RFTS) success Coach, Megan Jenniex, is equally enthusiastic. “During our last session with Libby, multiple students exclaimed, ‘Libby is my new favourite artist!’ “says Megan.

After their time online with Libby, Megan goes outside with the students to connect with nature. This winter, they have been taking rubbings of tree bark and tree stumps and using those textured papers to create works of art. 

“Students explored what different colours trees could be and came up with all kinds of colours such as brown, red, orange, white, black. While outside, students looked carefully to find these colours in the trees around us then proceeded to try their new tree rubbing art skills,” says Megan. The students placed pieces of paper against the trunks of trees and tree stumps. Then they used a crayon to rub against the paper to collect the texture of the tree.

“Once we returned to class, the students ripped up their tree rubbings paper and glued the strips onto a fresh sheet of paper in the form a tree. This opened up an amazing conversation on what a ‘perfect’ tree looks like and how ripping creates organic lines and structures just like we see in the trees around us” says Megan.

By understanding that there is no specific ‘perfect’ tree and that all trees are unique and amazing for different reasons, the students see this metaphor reflected in themselves, and realize how they too are unique and amazing in their own way.

Wellness through the arts
Wellness through the arts
Wellness through the arts

“Being able to see students of all abilities being creative is deeply meaningful,” says Megan. “I saw students with a diversity of skills and needs all working together. It had a great community feeling and it was very moving.”

Libby says that the process has been for both the students and the teachers. “As I learned from Megan: “there is no such thing as bad feelings, only hard to have feelings”. I hope these lessons instill self-compassion for students when they are having those hard-to-have feelings. Through observing nature, sharing our favourite activities and sights from each season, and the responding feelings we experience in those moments, students build a toolbox for their ‘bad’ days.

Libby and Megan will continue to work together and look forward to meeting online again for the next set of lessons in the Spring season.


artsPlace are offering programs like these that engage students and promote mental wellness with support from a $9,600 donation from the Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation. In collaboration with Right From The Start, the programs will be offered at Banff Elementary School, Elizabeth Rummel School, and Lawrence Grassi Middle School. These innovative programs help students relieve stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem, improve confidence, and combat isolation.

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