One of the questions I’m commonly asked as Studio Coordinator at RE-create is how youth in the city find out about our drop-in art studio times. There are many answers to that question. Randy, our outreach worker, and I walk around the downtown core before the studio opens, visit local group homes and shelters, and connect with other youth-serving agencies in the city. We also reach out to the community of organizations offering alternative education and mental health services.
One of those places is St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and their Bridge to Recovery program at the West 5th hospital. Bridge offers time-limited care for people with serious mental illness, with the goal of helping them transition back into the community. Partnering with Bridge, particularly their recreation therapist Kamila Gemin, has been a truly mutually beneficial relationship.
Many times when youth transition back to community after an inpatient stay, their world has been turned upside down. They’re usually no longer working or going to school, and are faced with long days that they need to fill. It’s great for Kamila to be able to refer some of these youth to RE-create, as youth can attend as frequently as three times a week, while also being connected to other youth resources in the city. RE-create also loves getting to meet all the new youth that Kamila sends our way.
Given this partnership, when Kamila approached me to talk about helping out with an exhibition in support of Recreation Therapy Month in February, I was excited to hear more. We ended up brainstorming a concept for a collaborative art piece, which would be displayed up at West 5th, alongside artwork made in other programs.
Kamila supplied a few themes for the artists: what recovery and wellness meant to them, what hope was to them, and what inspired them on their journey of recovery. Kamila and I then organized a special workshop at RE-create, where Bridge youth and RE-create youth could come together to work on the collaborative art piece.
The collaborative piece took the form of a freestanding cardboard table, skillfully made by studio assistant Mouse, from which were hung small square canvases, and other 3D pieces. RE-create youth and volunteers got creative for a few weeks, and then the creative energy built as we were joined by Bridge youth. Kamila’s intern Jacob also helped, and painted the top of the table with graphics brainstormed by RE-create youth.
I was fortunate enough to be up at the West 5th campus the day of the exhibition, and got to see all the artwork displayed in the main foyer of the hospital. It was great to see people stopping to learn more about the importance of recreational therapy in mental health. I eavesdropped on comments about the beauty and skill of the artwork on display, and shared a high five with Kamila and Jacob.
We love opportunities like these to partner with other community agencies with similar vision and values, and look forward to working with Kamila and Bridge in the future!