Open Windows Studio – a Breath of Fresh Air!


What do you get when you combine art instruction with occupational therapy and mental health and addictions services?

Students Greg Taylor and Angela Hennebury (background) at Open Windows Studio

Students Greg Taylor and Angela Hennebury (background) at Open Windows Studio

Open Windows Studio!

Located at Eastern Health’s Waterford Hospital, it was developed back in the 1960s, to promote health and wellbeing through occupation.

Open Windows Studio is a working fine arts studio with a full-time fine arts instructor. Students, who are users of various mental health services, enter the studio with a variety of skill levels – from beginner and intermediate, to the more advanced. They’re given opportunities to experiment with a variety of media which can include:

  • drawing,
  • painting,
  • multimedia,
  • printmaking,
  • sculpture and other clay work, and
  • collage.

Coming to the Studio offers mental health service users, 18 years and up, a chance to experience a different type of recovery journey, where creative activity is the tool of developing self-help and motivational strategies.

Open Windows Studio student Tony Rabinowitz working with clay

Open Windows Studio student Tony Rabinowitz working with clay

Research – and my own observation – has shown that working with creative activities can help improve and maintain wellbeing, because:

  • it encourages the development of skills for self-care and stress management, such as: relaxation, self-expression, concentration, and confidence – as well as a sense of personal identity.
  • there is less social isolation because of peer interaction with individuals having like interests.

As the fine arts instructor, I collaborate with each student in decision making and the planning of their artwork – and offer regular feedback.

And students get more than my feedback!

A variety of art shows are held that allow students of Open Windows Studio to showcase their work and foster richer connections to the local community.

Branching Out – Partnerships

Frank Clarke and his ‘bas relief’ work, at Open Windows Studio

Frank Clarke and his ‘bas relief’ work, at Open Windows Studio

Open Windows Studio made the front page of The Telegram on September 26th for a show at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s. The show was done in collaboration with business students at the College of the North Atlantic under the Enactus group. The business students planned and executed the development of the space and the show for Open Windows Studio, and helped design and print business cards and artist’s statements.

The artists brought their work.

We had almost 300 visitors to this event! This was our third event working with the Enactus students, a partnership we greatly appreciate.

We also participated in the recent launch of the new Community Coalition 4 Mental Health held October 15th, at Holy Heart Theatre. We joined forces with local actors, filmmakers, authors and musicians to bring attention to mental health issues in a number of new and innovative ways.

Students of Open Windows Studio, with Enactus partners from College of the North Atlantic. Art Instructor Valerie Hodder is at far right.

Students of Open Windows Studio, with Enactus partners from College of the North Atlantic. Art Instructor Valerie Hodder is at far right.

We provided an information booth showcasing Open Windows Studios, and our students chatted with others about their skills and artistic interests – an entertaining and informative evening!

A History of Success – and Beyond!

Acrylic Painting by student Gerard McNiven, Open Windows Studio

Acrylic Painting by student Gerard McNiven, Open Windows Studio

Meanwhile, our Open Windows Studio annual Art Show and Sale is now in its 18th year! The show this year commences on November 17th with an all-day reception from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The work is up for show and sale until November 28th.

It’s usually our one and only event based at the Waterford Hospital throughout the year, and it’s proven to be a really popular event – with people coming and going the whole day!

It’s a great way to support both the program – and the artists – and to find some beautiful artwork or craftwork to share with others.

All profits from the artwork go directly to the artist.

Fast on the heels of that show, the Studio begins to prepare for our second appearance at the Anna Templeton Centre’s annual Tea and Sale, which will be held December 12th, 13th, and 14th. (Check the Anna Templeton Centre for exact times). A warm welcome last time – and an invitation to come back this year…..a new Christmas tradition, perhaps?

These are all wonderful opportunities for our students to feature and sell their own work and to see what other artists and craftspeople are doing in our community.

Painted wooden Christmas ornament from Open Windows Studio

Painted wooden Christmas ornament from Open Windows Studio

I believe it also speaks well to the quality of work by members of the Open Windows Studio – and their commitment to these fun and inspiring showcases of local talent in fine arts and crafts.

Benefits – and the buddy system!

So much is learned from participating in these shows.

Some students of the Open Window Studio have had their own booth at an event, but most are taking it slow and participating as a group.

If students branch out on their own, there is more opportunity for financial success, as all profits are theirs alone, but the work is no longer shared as much – though we always seem to help one another anyway!

Student Gerard McNiven, at Open Windows Studio

Student Gerard McNiven, at Open Windows Studio

Multiple day events can be time consuming and exhausting – so it helps to have back up. Everyone helps everyone else with all that has to be done…a real community effort.

The end result? Firm steps on the road towards independence, self-reliance, and community development.

Like an ‘open window’ itself – providing a healthy breath of fresh air!

This story was written by Valerie Hodder, Fine Arts Instructor, BFA, BFA Art Ed., Waterford Hospital.

If you would like to know more about the Open Window Studio art program, please drop by to one of our special events. Or – if you’d like visit during regular class time, you can call ahead to check for an appropriate time to visit at (709) 777-3544.

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