Art Hives is an international initiative whose goal is to provide safe spaces for creativity to flourish. Communities around the globe have opened locations full of supplies for people to gather and create art. Nancy Bruyere, a local art therapist, thought an Art Hive would be perfect for Ste. Rose as art opportunities were limited in the community. She started a pilot project in 2019 with the goal of improving mental well-being. Located in Ste. Rose Regional Library, it became one of only two Art Hives in Manitoba. This pilot program ran for 15 weeks with the help of volunteers, including Koreen Ogg, Elvier Brunel, Germaine Jacob, Tamara Oversby, Anna Pinette, and several others. The program was a success; adults and children alike came out each week to create and learn from Nancy.
Nancy received a new employment opportunity once the pilot program ended. Since she couldn’t continue leading the Art Hive, the future of the program was uncertain. However, as Koreen explained, “The kids were willing to do anything to keep it going.” The volunteers were amazed by the children’s initiative in coming up with ideas to continue the program. They began volunteering their parents and grandparents to help. They also wrote a letter to the Municipality of Ste. Rose requesting to continue using space in the library for free for Art Hive gatherings. “They included their art with the letter,” explained Elvier, “[The Municipality] was so moved by the letters and the art that they had received.” Impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm, the Municipality agreed to the children’s request. Art Hives also received plenty of support from the community with donations from the Kinsmen club, MMF – Ste. Rose Local, 100 Women Who Care, Ste. Rose Dental Centre, Ste. Rose Sunrise Credit Union, and many others.
In the spring of 2020, the Art Hive opened for its second round of programming. They offered afternoon sessions once a week and always included a healthy snack. “The Art Hive idea is for all ages,” explained Germaine, as children, teenagers, and adults showed up to the library. Participants had access to a wide array of art supplies, with Koreen saying, “They’d come here and they’d just be in awe to have so much available to them.” Supervisors provided materials for a specific craft each week, or participants could create something from their own imagination. “We have places to display their work if they want, but a lot of times, they want to show it off instead,” Germaine said, so the kids would often bring their artwork home with them. Volunteers taught the children different techniques and tips, including how much paint to use, how to clean paint brushes, and how to recycle supplies from home into their artwork.
The participants returned week after week. “No matter what your level of art is, it was always a very welcoming environment,” explained Tamara, “They just really enjoyed it so much.” The children learned from the supervisors and each other, eventually coming to the library with ideas already in mind. “You don’t even know the full impact,” Koreen explained, as parents told her their kids were now creating art at home as well. Many of the participants shared what they learned with others; “Some went on to do their own [art programs] within their church groups and youth groups,” said Elvier. The volunteers viewed this as a positive, with Koreen agreeing, “It helps [art] grow in different directions.” The participants’ confidence in their artistic abilities grew throughout the program. “They were just inspired by others around them,” said Elvier, “They now claim themselves as artists.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic caused facilities to close in March of 2020, the program was temporarily paused. It was difficult to plan activities under Public Health orders. “We were planning a spring kickoff,” explained Koreen, but it was cancelled due to a change in restrictions. This was discouraging, but a Healthy Together Now grant helped them to plan at-home versions of their activities. In June 2021, volunteers gathered outside the library to hand out take-home packages to each child in the program. “I thought they’ve probably moved on and forgot about us, but boy not at all,” said Koreen, as around 20 kids showed up to grab a kit. The kits were created from reused materials from the library. They included crayons, markers, pencils, and instructions for a drawing project. Participants were also provided with a wooden board and paint to create a sign with a positive message. They were instructed to hang their signs on the fence behind the library, with Elvier explaining, “It was about supporting people during this time.” Anna also gave each child a gift, saying, “I thought the kids were really interested in the art so I decided to give them each a painting I had made.” The kids often admired the art she had displayed in the library, so they were excited to receive a painting of their own. In addition, each participant received a healthy snack to eat while making their art at home.
Looking into the future, Koreen explained they are flexible with their plans: “If we’re lucky enough to be [in person], we’ll do the kit here. If we’re not then they’ll take it home.” Several more exciting art kits are already planned, including a fabric collage, rock painting, and button art. The Art Hive also intends to provide each family with a plastic storage bin containing art supplies for future projects. If you want to check out the Ste. Rose Art Hive, keep an eye out for their chalkboard sign outside the library!
Interested in receiving funding for a project focused on healthy eating, physical activity, mental well-being or tobacco prevention and reduction in your community? Visit Prairie Mountain Health’s ‘Healthy Together Now’ page for more information on eligibility and how to apply.