Contact us Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm at 715-327-4402

New Wellness Center

Northwest Passage is celebrating its increased capacity for serving children and families at its Frederic location this week with an Open House. The Prairieview and Assessment programs have gained a new Wellness Center, complete with a gym and both an outdoor and indoor classroom, and Prairieview added a new unit. The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 3:30 – 5:30 pm at the new Wellness Center at 201 United Way in Frederic.

Situated at the south edge of town, Northwest Passage operates two mental health residential treatment programs serving youth struggling with mental illness ages 6-17. Ellen Race says of the programs, “treatment deals with everything from their physical and mental health, academics, and fun. Adding a facility like the Wellness Center provides greater quality of care, rain or shine.” As a part of the Wellness Center expansion, Northwest Passage has committed to providing an immersive, environmentally themed, project-based educational curriculum.

The students will work with a number of pollinator friendly projects throughout the year. They will work to assist Northwest Passage in the restoration of a portion of its land to native prairie grasses through multiple projects such as the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards rain garden initiative and the National Park Service’s Pollinator Pledge. They will work directly with pollinators through service at Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation’s pollinator lab, by tending to their own beehive. They will also grow pollinator dependent fruits and vegetables in their own gardens thanks to St. Croix Valley Foundations support and make pollinator friendly art projects – all of which will be on display at Thursday’s open house.

Tours will also be given of the newest unit at Prairieview. “We’re excited to be showing off our new unit in our Prairieview program,” says executive director Mark Elliott. “There is a dramatic shortage of residential mental health services in the state and all over the county. This expansion does a small part in reaching that need. It allows us to pursue our mission with even more kids.”

Northwest Passage would like to thank the St. Croix Valley Foundation as a number of these projects received funding from the SCVF and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

For more details about the event, please visit our events page at nwpltd.org/events. To RSVP please call us at 715-327-4402 or visit our Facebook page.

Resources: Photos courtesy of Dillon Vibes

 

Therapeutic Art Program Helps Reshape Youths’ Futures

Arts bring out kids’ strengths; help them heal

 

Outside, the world is lushly green, it’s pouring rain, and the tune “Here Comes the Sun” floats through the room. There’s a low murmur of voices: nine girls are engaged in shaping animal figures out of clay or drawing fish figures on cardboard. Occasionally there’s laughter at a comment from the instructor’s baritone. You can feel it’s a happy place.

 

That’s exactly one of the outcomes Ian Karl aims for by having Chris Lutter-Gardella as Northwest Passage’s August Artist-in-Residence at the remote Schaefer Cabin located in the Namekagon River watershed. Ian is Northwest Passage’s Experiential Program Coordinator in charge of the program.

 

The Artist-in-Residence program is one of several NWP art programs that evolved from the organization’s 39 year history of promoting a therapeutic lifestyle for their clients. Over the last six years, art has emerged as a strong component of Northwest Passage’s mission. So much so, that one mile south of Webster on State Road 35 NWP opened the In a New Light Gallery.

 

Puppets, masks relate to nature

 

The Gallery features the kids’ art – primarily nature photography – and is open to the public. Why that name? Because through this program the clients are able to see the world around them in a new light and see themselves in a new positive light: capable and creative. That’s a fulfillment of the NWP mission: to restore hope through innovative health services for at-risk children and families.

 

But back to Chris and the girls at the Schaefer Cabin. During his four-week session from July 17 to August 14, thirty-two boys and girls ages 6-17 in four separate groups, came to the cabin in shifts, working on art projects, described by Chris: “We’re creating masks, puppet art pieces and props that relate to the natural world here in the northwoods and also globally that will appear in a music video called Life is Better With You.”

 

The content is consistent with each group. There are three projects: making masks with clay and paper mache, building insect puppets, and creating fish figures In addition to the educational connection with nature, Chris demonstrates conservation and environmental responsibility by using primarily repurposed and recycled industrial materials.

 

He explains: “For the bumblebees, which was our kick-off/warm-up project with the boys the first week, we used plastic bottles that I got from a bottling company down by Stillwater. Wire clothes hangers we used for handles and legs; plastics from mattress bags we repurposed into bee wings.

 

 

 

 

“For the fish, we’re using recycled cardboard boxes; we’ll put scales on them made out of heavier plastic packaging from the furniture industry. The clay forms are mostly recycled clay from the ceramics industry – clay that can’t be fired that typically ends up being dumpster-ed. Newspapers and paper bags we use for the paper mache, with burlap for the fringes around the masks.”

 

Chris connects the projects to cosmology – the nature of the universe: “The bumblebees are our connection with the air. We call them the ‘Keepers of the Air.’ The animals we’re making like the bear, the cougar and other creatures we consider ‘Keepers of the Land,’ and the fish are the ‘Keepers of the Water.’ That encourages the kids to think in terms of elements and different realms the animals help take care of.”

 

Some of the girls worked in pairs to create masks of various animals, real and imagined: cougar, bear, elephant, and dragon. Candice and Lorena were working on the dragon. Candice commented on the art project:I like it. I feel like it’s a way to express your feelings, and it’s a good way to cope with how you’re feeling, too, and how to interact with people. It makes me feel like I can do something that I wasn’t able to do before.”

 

She said she and Lorena like the reemergence of the dragon in popular culture and they wanted to bring one to life. Candice added, “It also represents fire, and I feel like no one else has fire as an animal, so, we’re like, ‘let’s do a dragon.’”

 

Attitudes turn around

 

Chris has worked with youth in the past. He observed, “The girls are just loving it. They’re really getting into sculpting the clay forms for the masks. They seem really invested and dedicated, excited about their pieces. When the art projects are completed, Chris explains, “We’ll take the kids outside and do some fun playing with the masks and props in the woods and along the [Namekagon] river and get some video of that.”

 

Cassie Bauer, a summer intern and student in Digital Media Production at Drake University is documenting and producing the video. Musician Kathryn “Kat” King is providing the accompanying music. The final film will be a rendition of Michael Frante’s Life is Better With You. It will premiere at the Taste of the Trail event at the In a New Light Gallery on September 23rd.

 

The residual and significantly more important outcomes are reflected in the kids’ turn-arounds of attitudes and feelings. Ian noted, “Every one of the kids involved seemed happy doing what they were doing. They were smiling, fully engaged. This sort of activity allows them to separate from their problems, they can block out other noise in the world and focus on the task at hand.”

 

“When we’re engaged in things we enjoy, get fulfillment from and see the results of our work, we’re happier, content and feel a sense of achievement. This fits in to the idea of taking a strength based approach to problem solving. When you help kids find their strengths and give them opportunities to thrive, the mental health challenges they’re facing have the potential to take a back seat. Being engaged in tactile art in a unique location where you can physically feel you’re leaving your troubles behind is really powerful and beneficial.”

 

He continued, “If we consistently focus on the kids’ problems, the mental health challenges and the diagnoses, then all the energy goes into focusing on that. But if we can help them find their strengths and what they have to offer others, they are happier, more content and work better together as a group. And that’s exactly what we see going on at the cabin. When you go to a unique place like [Schaefer Cabin] and are guided by a professional artist with the constant, calm, consistency and experience that Chris provides – that is priceless.”                               

 

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In a New Voice Program

Recently, Northwest Passage has been expanding their creative programs into an experimental writing project called, In a New Voice. The program is highly poetry based but also includes creative non-fiction like a personal essays, journal entries or short stories. Before the residents begin their reflections, they go out in nature and do various activities like hike, canoe, examine rocks, trees, plants and animals. This serves as a way to spark inspiration for their poetry.
Using the material they created from their reflections, they begin to transform those poems into “motion poetry.” Motion Poetry is where the kids pair their poems with images and possibly music in a video format. The residents have been involved with the entire process from the writing, storyboarding, editing and shot selection.
Soon the the program hopes to incorporate a spoken-word component with the residents performing a piece or to in a live reading setting!

I’m here to share my secret.

Be quiet and you shall see.

All the things floating around me will fill your heart with glee.

It will take your breath away and drop your jaw so low, for…

I’ve travelled from here to there and brought back an amazing glow.

You think you know me oh so well

But you’re only at the start.

I’ve travelled past the comets and been burned by the hearts of stars.

I’ve travelled to the planets and seen their awful scars

I’ve made my way through supernovas and been spat out just as hard.

I’ve seen so many planets with mountains high and chasms deep

Galaxies so beautiful they make a giant weep.

I’m the one to wake the planets and send the moon to sleep.

I’ve seen the sun’s great power, with an attitude so rare;

Don’t underestimate the sun for she might give you her ugly glare.

Be careful where you travel, don’t go so far.

Make sure to be safe and always remember who you are.

Don’t tell me that you know me.

That, “right here is what you are.”

I am the universe in motion.

I was born by the stars.

Jazzy

Ancient Traveler

Nature

Calm, Windy

Chirping, Swimming, Fishing

Trees, Grass, Park, McDonalds

Walking, Laughing, Crying

Noisy, Crowded

City

5 senses

Julia

Inspiration by: “I am a Tree” Laleta Davis-Mattis

 

I am an owl

A wise, wise owl

I am constantly on the prowl

I search up high

I search down low

There are many places that I can go

I see the mice running around

So that I can swoop them off the ground

Then take them to my nest up high

Which is up, up, up in the sky

 

I am an owl

A wise, wise owl

I am constantly on the prowl

I think about how the human race

Could possibly get me misplaced

How the destruction of trees

Is as far as I can see

And I ponder if they get my nest

Will I then call those humans pests

For the rest of eternity.

Caroline

I Am An Owl

Check out more In a New Voice videos here!

Chris Lutter Returns to Passage

Northwest Passage welcomes Minneapolis-based theater artist Chris Lutter-Gardella, noted for his work in Burnett County, as its July Artist-in-Residence.

Chris designed and lead the Jordan Buck Community Art Project to celebrate the centennial of that national record-holding whitetail in August of 2014. In 2015 and 2016, he lead students creating the Siren Dragon mascot and the Webster Centennial Sunfish art project.

The Wisconsin native specializes in designing projects using industrial materials that would typically be discarded. He emphasizes eco-consciousness and resourcefulness, explaining “As a community educator and artist-in-residence, I engage community members in re-purposing various ‘waste materials’ into performable artworks, while deepening their connections to the Earth and to one another.”

Chris hopes to further expand on the work of former Artist in Residence, Cait Irwin, with symbols and metaphors. He plans to use water as the main symbolic focus and have the kids explore what that means to them.

In addition to Chris’ residency, he manages and directs Puppet Farm Arts, a nonprofit organization that centers around “teaching artistic improvisation while integrating the repurposing of waste-stream material into imaginative inventions for “public-square community theater.””

Over the past two years, Northwest Passage has hosted many artists with skill sets ranging from sculpture, drawing, music, photography and much more. Inviting artists to the Passage campus raises the caliber of treatment that Northwest Passage can offer.

The Artist in Residence program is just one program that sets Passage apart from other mental health treatment centers. Incorporating the Artist in Residence program builds a warm, immersive atmosphere that contrasts the typical sterile environment of a hospital setting.

By doing this, the residents can forget about the mental health stigma and truly focus on their recovery. Since 1978, Northwest Passage’s mission has been to restore hope through innovative health services for children and families.

New Resources Refresh the Equine Therapy Program

Thanks to our clinical director Angela Frederickson, we have been able to provide Equine Therapy to our Northwest Passage kids for the past eight years. It has been an excellent experience for many of our kids and we are so happy to announce that our program is not only flourishing but it is also growing!

Passage is bringing back horses to the Gallery grounds on Fridays for the Riverside boys. Horses will also now be available at the Prairieview and Assessment facilities. Plus we have added another EAGALA certified clinician at Riverside who can facilitate the Riverside programming at the Gallery.

EAGALA stands for Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. According to Eagala.org, EAGALA is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs. Incorporating horses into our kid’s treatment plans is a refreshing way that they can become more introspective.

Equine therapy can be a great tool used by our residents. Associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky M.S. explains, “Because horses can sense a person’s feelings and respond accordingly, they can serve as a mirror that the person can use to see and understand feelings they may not be aware of.”

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The EAGALA website states, “To evade predators, horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their environment. They instinctively analyze and react to our body language and other nonverbal cues. As a result, we are able to gain insight into our own nonverbal communication and behavior patterns. The EAGALA Model invites clients into an arena for ground-based interaction with horses to facilitate the therapeutic process. These horses become the focal point in client-driven discovery and analysis.”

Our newest EAGALA clinican, Kayla said, “I grew up riding horses in northwest Wisconsin with my family. One of the horses I am bringing to Passage has been with me since I was 12 years old and he has not only taught me how to ride, but also taught me how horses can impact people from the ground.”

The EAGALA model is based on off all groundwork; at no point does a client ever mount or ride a horse. By just being in the arena with the horses our clients can experience comfort, support and sometimes even a challenge. At that point, the horses become a part of the treatment team because they are apart of the recovery process and what happens in the arena. As part of the EAGALA model the animal is represented as a professional partner.

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EAGALA has more of a mental health focus compared to other horse therapy programs and is all about giving the kids a place to be themselves and to experience their issues in the moment. It requires a lot of trusting in the horses to take care of the session and to be able to sense what is needed in that moment.

Horses require relationships to be built in order to trust. They require relationship repair the same as any person would after damage has been made, but they don’t pre-judge the way that people tend to. The horses do not get a rundown of the client’s mental health history or any background information.

Tartakovsky continues to explain the opportunities for cultivating healthy relationships; “Horses offer the person a non-judging relationship, which can help a person struggling with the negative relationship consequences from his mental illness to rebuild his confidence without fear of criticism.”
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During our equine sessions, the horses are set loose and are free to roam around the arena so that they are able to be themselves. They each have their own personalities and mannerisms. It is entirely up to the residents to interpret the feedback that the horses give. The clinicians who facilitate these sessions are strictly there to provide emotional and physical safety if need be.

EAGALA is about trusting the herd. Due to this being such an experiential model, it is important that the horses names, genders, and ages are not identified to the clients so that they can utilize them as they see necessary in the moment.

Overall, Northwest Passage is excited to be exploring another innovative therapeutic method so the work can continue to expand on our diverse, yet effective paths of healing. By taking to these new techniques, it is just one more way Passage stands out from other residential treatment facilities. Northwest Passage continues to look forward to seeing all the progress our kids will make due to equine therapy!

Northwest Passage Hosts English Author as part of Artist in Residence

PASSAGE KIDS AND STAFF ALIKE GREATFUL FOR PETERS’ VISIT

Northwest Passage and over 50 guests welcomed English author, Andrew Fusek Peters, to the In a New Light Gallery to do a book reading of his latest book, Dip: Wild Swims from the Borderlands. He spoke of his time spent swimming in wild waters and presented his gorgeous photography from the rural English countryside to a packed house.

Peters kept the crowd entertained as he connected over real life struggles. He shared the trials of his bout with severe depression and alcoholism that transformed his life. “32 years clean and sober,” he pointed out to hearty applause by the crowd. He warmly regaled us with moments from his book discussing the role water played in his reformation, “As I slowly mended, it was partly the action of water, that great liquid of life, which had one of the most profound effects on me. It’s an element that is both changing and changeless.”

Executive Director, Mark Elliott, is always happy to see conversations like this take place in a public space. In part, it’s what makes the In a New Light Gallery such a special place. “Like it or not, almost every single one of us is touched by mental illness and the consequences of the absence of treatment, such as alcohol and drug abuse. These conversations are vital to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in our communities. We thank Andrew for coming here to share his journey with our kids and with the public.”

One particular passage from his book resonates with us here at Passage: “This is the water that heals, restores, fills me with glow-worm gladness.” Wisconsin has her own special waters and we here at Passage have been taking advantage of their powers to heal for nearly forty years now.

Northwest Passage cares about the artistic growth of our kids. We invite artists to come in, as an artist in residence, to guide them on journeys of self-expression through the language of arts. Art is an important part of the Northwest Passage philosophy of living a therapeutic lifestyle. Read more about the eight elements at http://nwpltd.org/passageway/.

Earth Partnership for Schools

EDUCATION + ENVIRONMENT + HANDS ON = SUCCESS

Northwest Passage is proud to announce a new partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Arboretum to bring Earth Partnership for Schools to our campuses. We’re grateful for the Arboretum’s investment in our program and our kids. Since we serve kids across the country, and the nation, we’re proud to be exposing hundreds of kids each year to such a great core curriculum. Our Executive Director, Mark Elliott says, “We are looking forward to plugging into the experience and wealth of knowledge that Earth Partnerships will bring to our commitment to creating hands-on, environmentally focused, flexible educational opportunities for our clients.”

Earth Partnerships for Schools (EPS), “collaborates with diverse communities to create vibrant outdoor learning spaces using a curriculum-based ecological restoration process. Through facilitated relationship-building and dialogue, communities identify their shared stewardship vision and the ways EP can help make it a reality.” Northwest Passage has identified a beautiful 20 acre site as its stewardship project and has the goals to bring it back to its prairie roots.

“Everything came together to allow us to be able to make this commitment to our clients, Education Director Andy Flottum says of the prairie restoration initiative through Earth Partners. “Our outdoor classrooms are nearly finished, the pledge to the National Park Service to increase pollinator space was approved, and our desire to bring more flexibility and capacity to our educational curriculum was made a top priority. With all these things in place, we just had to make the connection with EPS and the rest is history.”

“We are devoted to meeting our kids educational goals while transforming mental health through the healing process. It is our belief that time spent in our natural environment will improve both mental wellness and capacity for learning. We hope to send kids home with a greater dedication to their education.”

“Using hands-on experience to foster learning and practicing skills by working through a long-term project that requires our students to really dig in to investigate and engage with a challenge and solve problems helps to connect our kids to the knowledge we want them to walk away with in a strength-based approach.”

Experiential Coordinator, Ian Karl, one of the staff charged with the implementation of this new curriculum is a naturalist himself and sees the obvious connection between Passage’s commitment to getting our kids all the tools possible to live a therapeutic lifestyle well into their independent lives. “If we can empower our kids to improve their world and learn from it, we’ll be fostering healthier lifestyles.”

What will this all mean for our students? Ellen Race, program Director at Prairieview and Assessment says that curriculum will be filtered through a project based, environmentally themed lens. “Our classrooms often have kids with varying skills in math, science, and reading. Now couple that classroom with a project done together that has tasks at varied levels for everyone to be successful? A child at a low-functioning level may do measuring, while a student who functions at a higher level may assist their group mates in calculating the measurements and mathematics, while another student may draw out the space, and yet another will write a narrative of the groups efforts. What you have is a win/win for students, teachers, and parents.”

 

The educators at Northwest Passage work every day to find new and exciting ways to teach our students. While we do use a classroom for some activities, we believe that getting them active and outdoors helps the learning experience, along with their overall physical and mental health. This partnership with Earth Partnerships for Schools will get them outside where they can see and touch the materials they are learning about and then return to the indoor or outdoor classroom where they can reflect on what they have learned.

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Tropical Adventure: An Expedition to Dry Tortugas National Park

KIDS EXPERIENCE DEEP CONNECTIONS

Water is medicine and adventure is transformative. When we cast aside our reference points and dive into something completely new, we can see who we are, feel who we are, with deeper clarity. The true journey of any grand adventure is ultimately an inward one.

As you’ve likely heard, the young artists of Northwest Passage have spent the past three summers submerged in Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes to photograph a story of otherwise unseen magic and beauty. Their award winning photographs have been celebrated in exhibitions, presentations, magazine articles, and videos. Imagine, if you will, snorkeling alongside the kids in their “home waters” of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway: maneuvering in the cool, swift waters; peering through the dark currents in search of fleeting shots of timid fish.  Now imagine an aquatic world as different as possible from the rivers of the north. You’re probably imagining a place much like Dry Tortugas National Park.

Dry Tortugas is a tropical paradise of crystalline waters overflowing with life.  This tiny cluster of islands 70 miles by boat from Key West, Florida is an underwater photographer’s dream.  Overlooking these waters is Fort Jefferson, an immense pre-civil war era sea fortress and one of the largest masonry structures in the western hemisphere. Fueled by the generous funding and guidance of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center (SRC), the National Park Foundation, the Richard Parrish Foundation, and the staff of Dry Tortugas National Park; Jaden, Jonathan, and Johnny—three of our all-star program alumni—brought their unique artistic vision to these exotic waters last month. With the guidance of world-renowned underwater photographer Brett Seymour of the SRC, they spent a week capturing the essence of the islands. Joining Brett and the kids were program leaders Toben LaFrancois, Ben Thwaits, and Austin Elliott, along with retired NPS diver Bob Whaley, and filmmaker Jesse Placky, who was working with Curiosity Stream to film our experiences.

Our adventure had one additional companion.  Throughout our trip, Hurricane Matthew was stalking several hundred miles to the east. While we were extremely fortunate that our itinerary carried on as scheduled, Matthew’s high winds occasionally forced us off the water or limited our snorkeling to the lee sides of islands. But despite these challenges, the photographers discovered magic. It was a week immersed in a Neverland of coral reefs, giant groupers, and shipwrecks patrolled by packs of barracudas; of sun and salt and sweet sea air.

But Johnny, Jaden, and Jonathan also discovered a deeper layer of Tortugas magic, as it quickly became apparent that this expedition was about far more than just underwater photography.  The Tortugas experience was about connecting deeply with incredibly generous and talented National Park Service mentors, guides, and leaders,  whose passion for this place was inspiring, and who made us feel embraced and at home in a distant land. It was about living within the rich history of Fort Jefferson, which NPS historian Kelly Clark brought to life for us. It was about night skies of unmatched brilliance, delicious red snappers on the end of our line, and a crocodile named Carlos who seemed to bond with our team.

Above all, the Dry Tortugas was a peak experience of deep connection. Connection to peers, to mentors, to nature, to the past, to oneself.   And we all know that connection is the ultimate catalyst for healing.  But don’t take it from me.  Here’s what our young photographers had to say:

On my way to Dry Tortugas, I had so many ideas of what he place will be like, but I completely underestimated what it would be like. When it was in seeing distance of the fort, I was amazed by the size of it. it looked like something in a movie. Living here felt like a dream. Walking around the fortress and learning about all the history made me feel honored to stay in such a beautiful historic place. Being in Dry Tortugas has been such an amazing experience, and it has been everything I’ve been needing. It was really good to cut away from the world and be somewhere new. Seeing all this amazing life and being able to capture photos of it has been an experience of a lifetime.

Jonathan, 18

Dry Tortugas is an amazing place. It is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is still hard for me to believe that I was there. You might be able to look this place up on google, but when you see in with your own two eyes it will all change. This place has so many things to do. Anyone who will ever come to this fort will fall in love at first sight. I still try to come to reality that there is a place like this on earth. This place can change you in a good way. It made a lot of things in life make sense to me.

Johnny, age 17

The Dry Tortugas National Park is astonishing to say the least.  Above the surface is the old Fort Jefferson which in itself is amazing, but under the surface is where the real beauty is.  There’s a vast array of fish that are colorful and tropical.  I’ve never seen any animals that are so colorful and diverse.  Along with the fish are the breathtaking coral reefs.  The coral reefs are the center of activity for the fish.  It looks as if it’s straight out of a fish tank or something out of the movies.  It’s actually hard to put into words what’s under the water in the Dry Tortugas, so that’s what photographs are for. This experience was overwhelming, in a good way.  There was so much to take in and everything was so new to me that I was at a loss for words being a part of the expedition.  The trip really has proven to me that good things do come out of negative situations.  It was by far the most astonishing thing I have ever done.  It has also made me feel extremely grateful towards Northwest Passage organization and the National Park Service that I was able to experience these things.

Jaden, 18

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Behind the Masks

WORKING TOWARD SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Prairieview residents made individually casted personal masks creating a unique collaboration between individual therapy and therapeutic art group. The residents excelled with notable symbolism and creativity while exploring the pieces of self we show the outside world, what we hold within, and how we can move towards self-acceptance.

I show the world happiness and what I think the world wants to see. If I don’t do that, I feel different, I feel separate like I’m not supposed to feel the way I do. Sharing happiness eventually makes me happy, it distracts me from underlying sadness.

Marissa, 16

The girls spent two weeks casting masks of their faces with paper mache and then decorating those masks with many paint colors and other pieces like lace or beads. The front represented how the world sees them and the inside represented how they see themselves. “Each color represented a different emotion or way they see themselves, Molly Thompson, Expressive Arts Counselor said, “it was incredible to see how much time and detail they put into them.”

They then spent a day at the yurt. “We delved into pieces of personality, masks we wear, the purpose they serve, things we keep hidden and why and ultimately self-acceptance via writing, discussion, and dance,” explained Gina Lundervold-Foley MS, LPC-IT, Mental Health Clinician.”The girls shared stories and really listened to each other.”

“These brave residents demonstrated courage and vulnerability when they were able to experiment with “owning” their strengths and weaknesses. I was amazed to witness their willingness to consider the concept of radical self-acceptance. It was a beautiful and liberating experience,” Lisa Courchaine, LCSW, Mental Health Clinician said.

The Prairieview girls had an open house to display the masks they made. Program Assistant, Nadine Schmitt, describes her experience, “we got to speak with each girl about the mask she created. We heard various stories of how the outside was decorated to demonstrate how people see them. Then they turned the mask so we could see the inside, which was also decorated; but to show how they feel inside. My heart went out to one of the girls who showed me an attractive outside mask but when she turned the mask over to show me the inside of the mask, she had red “X’s” over the eyes and the face was unattractive. She stated in a matter-of-fact tone that this is how her mother treats her. What a statement!”

Northwest Passage is passionate about the arts. We use many arts, including music, dance, photography, drawing, painting, and theater in our work with kids. Creating these masks is another way for the kids to look at themselves through art.

Expressions in Watercolor

BRIGHT AND BRILLIANT COLOR.

BOLD AND BRAVE STROKES.

WET PAINT IN THE WELLS OF PALETTES.

INTENSE FOCUS, THOUGHTS, AND EMOTIONS ON PAPER.

For the last three months, the Prairieview residents have explored the world of watercolor during expressive arts class. Not only can watercolor painting be an enjoyable activity, but it has multiple health benefits, including improving creativity, memory, communication skills and problem solving skills. On an emotional level, painting with watercolors can relieve stress, increase positive emotions and release hidden emotions.

After practicing and getting to know the media, the Prairieview residents were allowed to take the creative reigns and come up with their own ideas and subjects to put into their work. An amazing thing happened when they were allowed this freedom: in enabling one’s emotions to flow through art, one can create a better grasp on her varying feelings. Whether it’s the ebb and flow of joy and sadness, or more complex emotions, the Prairieview residents ultimately increased their emotional intelligence. Getting to witness their restoration of hope and possibly some healing through watercolor painting is quite an incredible experience.

At the end of the unit, the Prairieview residents held a small exhibit of their final watercolor projects at our In a New Light Gallery to show off their new found skills and to take pride in completing the watercolor unit. As their Expressive Arts Teacher, it brought me great pride and joy to see their faces light up as they walked into the exhibit to see their very own fine art on display. Each resident got a chance to speak with patrons of the Gallery about their artworks as well as indulge a little on the delicious snacks provided. I truly could not be more proud of their efforts.

Molly Thompson, Expressive Arts Counselor 

Paintbrush in my hand. Stuff on my mind. Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Thinking about the night before.Worrying for the future. You can’t change any of that. But only you choose how to handle it.

I found the watercolor unit helped me cope with the fear and worry that I would carry on my shoulders.
It was just me and the watercolor.

I challenge everyone to take at least five minutes out of the day, TV and cellphones off, and just focus on an art project. I challenge you to explore the aroma of Water Color Painting.

Jourdyn, age 15

Watercolors is one of the units that our expressive arts counselor guides our kids through. It is a recreational, relaxing activity, that allows for exploration of spirituality. Like Jourdyn describes above, it allows them to get lost in creativity letting their worries fade away while reflecting on things that matter to them.

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