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Northwest Passage wins Arts in the Community Award

Northwest Passage executive director, Mark Elliott, received an Arts in the Community Award on behalf of Northwest Passage from Arts Wisconsin, a part of Wisconsin’s statewide community cultural development organization.

The award was presented at the ninth annual Arts in the Community Awards event on Thursday, October 19, 2017, during the League of Wisconsin Municipalities’ 119th annual conference, at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton, WI.

These awards, presented by Arts Wisconsin in partnership with the League of Municipalities, “celebrate visionary leadership in and committed advocacy for the arts in all corners of the state,” says Arts Wisconsin Board President Ann Huntoon. “We’re proud to partner with the League of Municipalities to present these awards, and appreciative of the sponsors who make the awards possible.”

Mark Elliott has led Northwest Passage, which provides innovative residential mental health services to at-risk youth ages 12-17 and their families through innovative mental health services, since 2000. NWP’s cornerstone therapeutic arts program is In a New Light, using photography as a medium for expression and healing. Since 2012, photography art by NWP youth has been supported by the National Park Service and other national, state and local funders. Their work has been featured at the In a New Light Gallery in Webster and more than 40 locations locally and nationally.

The In a New Light Gallery in Webster showcases NWP students’ artwork to the public, giving youth a platform upon which to use their art to rewrite society’s narrative about themselves and other vulnerable youth like them. The gallery has filled a decade-old arts and culture void in the area and is one of the few art galleries in Burnett County.

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!

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/.

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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Sights set High

“Mankind has always dreamed of taking to the skies, and when they did, their outlook on the world changed forever.”  

Elias, age 16

FLIGHT PEAKS YOUNG MAN’S INTEREST IN BECOMING PILOT

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Riverside client, Elias, was one of the participants of Northwoods Flyers EAA Chapter 1537’s annual Young Eagles event held at the Burnett County Airport, as part of our “In a New Light” programming.

 

“I took photos of the pilots and their young passengers before they took flight.”  

After the first round of kids went on their flights, there was a short lull in participants, and so Elias got his opportunity to fly. He and his mentor pilot walked around the plane checking over the plane before he got strapped into the backseat.

“I was able to take on the skies myself along with pilot, Tom Wilde, in his Bellanca Scout Aircraft. A while after takeoff Tom offered to let me try to fly the plane myself. After a bit of hesitation, I took the controls and felt what it was like to be a pilot.” 

It was an experience that Elias hopes to repeat.

“Once it was over the only thing on my mind was when I was going to do that again? 

Seeing things from above was very different than on the ground, it almost made me feel a little insignificant seeing the vastness of the world we live in.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to go to space!”

Elias has since become an EAA Student Member and started Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course online. Northwoods Flyers EAA Chapter 1537’s Young Eagle event and program has sparked an interest in Elias that he may not have found so soon in his life, if ever.

The Young Eagles program was started by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in 1992. It gives children between the ages of 8 and 17 the opportunity to fly free in an airplane. According to the EAA web site, the program’s mission is “to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation” and our local chapter met their mark with Elias and hopefully more of the 35 kids that took part in the day or the 250 they have taken up in the last four years.

“There were lots of smiles and thank yous – it makes it worthwhile. I love being able to share the experience of flying with kids. I am thankful for our local pilots who donated their time and fuel.” 

Roy Ward, Pilot and Event Organizer

In Northwest Passage’s nearly 40 years of development, we have learned that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, appreciate time in nature, attend to their relationships, discover effective recreation opportunities, learn healthy nutritional habits, and move their bodies. This Young Eagles program has met many of these therapeutic lifestyle choices.

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Travel to the Apostle Islands with our kids

Travel Logs of an Expedition of Healing

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This fall, six of Northwest Passage’s Prairieview residents traveled to North America’s third coast, the shores of Lake Superior, for their capstone project in the latest chapter of New Light Under the Surface. We ventured north to spend time in this beautiful place and to work in partnership with the National Park Service staff of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and with Artist in Residence photographer, Andrew Walsh. This adventure was made possible thanks in part to the financial support of Wisconsin Sea Grant and The National Park Service Submerged Resources Center.

Lake Superior welcomed the group with unusually warm and calm water, clear skies, and a sunny disposition. We spent two nights and three days camping four miles from the mainland on Sand Island, near the Bayfield Peninsula, the western-most tip of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on which camping is permitted.

Getting to the Island

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For the majority of the residents, our first night camping on Sand Island was also their first night sleeping in a tent. It goes without saying that there was much preparation for the trip. In addition to the snorkeling and photography skills they learned and put into practice this summer, the group learned how to set up and take down a tent and how to ‘make their bedroom,’ how to pack a backpack, and how to plan their meals for wilderness camping. By the time we boarded the Park Service boat at Little Sand Bay the girls were well prepared for our adventure.

Great Lakes Fisheries Biologist Jay Glase captained the boat, a sturdy craft with powerful twin outboard motors. It was also equipped with a ramp that can be lowered for loading cargo and passengers directly onto the beach, but most importantly, so that we could slip safely into the water for aquatic exploration.

The water was perfect by Lake Superior standards. A gentle breeze pushed up 1-2 foot waves which was just enough to make water spray across the deck as we cruised to the Island, bouncing over waves.

“Being on the boat gave me an adrenaline rush. I had never been on a boat before. It felt so good as the mist of the cold water hit my face. I watched the waves from the side of the boat fly up. It was so relaxing to watch and brought me so much excitement.” 

Jourdyn, age 15

Setting Up Camp

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Upon arriving at East Bay on Sand Island, Jay ran the boat right in to the shallow water and lowered the bow ramp. The group formed a chain and worked together to unload the mountain of gear. We thanked Jay for safe passage and waved as he departed back to the mainland. The group was now on the island and began to settle in for the next three days.

The girls put their camping skills to practice and spent that afternoon setting up camp. Pitching tents, assembling the camp kitchen, building tarp shelters, and gathering firewood. They helped one another out, sharing what they remembered of their training when others got stuck. Once camp was settled, we spent the afternoon getting to know our little corner of the nearly 3000 acre island.

“The two points on the island jut out on both sides of me. They’re slightly curved, as if giving me a hug and telling me I’m safe, nothing will hurt me. The island is protecting me. From what? I don’t know. But the secluded peace of it all gives me a great sense of security.

To my right is the mainland, the place where we parked the car and left. Not only did I leave the town and commotion behind, I left my troubles too. The 2 a.m. thoughts of self-hatred, the constant fear of what comes next, the horrific desire to not desire, the trance of unworthiness that fogs my mind.”

Rachel, age 15

First Night on the Island

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After dinner the group rallied the energy to hike the nearly three miles to the northern tip of the Island. We hiked through old growth white pine and cedar and arrived at a small peninsula upon which the historic 135 year old Sand Island lighthouse sits. We got there just in time to catch the brilliant colors of the sunset and see the first of the stars emerge overhead.

Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh, provided instruction and guidance on sunset photography as the group took in the wild remoteness of the place. We played in the rock pools and explored what felt like the ‘edge of the earth.’

As night set in, we departed back to camp, the group persevered through the long hike back on a dark and buggy trail by singing and joking as we followed the lights of our headlamps. When we arrived back at our well-made camp at East Bay, everyone settled in for the night to get some much needed rest.

“The most challenging part of this trip was coming back from the lighthouse, when I got my hair stuck in the bug tent and the gnats swarmed my face because my headlamp was still on. This showed me that I can overcome struggles.

Hailey, age 14

Exploring the Caves at Swallow Point

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The next morning brought perfect weather – again! By the time our boat arrived promptly at 8:45 the group had eaten, cleaned, and secured camp. They were ready and waiting in wetsuits when Julie Van Stappen, Chief of Planning and Resource Management, and their boat captain for the day, arrived on the beach. We boarded with gear and cameras in hand and traveled up the shoreline to Swallow Point.

The Caves at Swallow point are one of the most notable geological features of the Apostle Islands. Their beauty is rivaled only by the caves on Devil’s Island and the mainland caves at Mawikwe Bay (which received international notoriety and tens of thousands of visitors during the winter of 2013).

The caves at these unique locations are formed from red sandstone that has slowly eroded to create arches, tunnels, and deep caverns. They are a living geological feature that continues to be gradually broken down by ice in the winter and smoothed by wave action in the summer. These caves have been photographed by hundreds of explorers and dozens of professionals. But never before have they been explored and photographed like this.

The group stood on the deck and was given guiding words of inspiration and safety by Ranger Van Stappen and their team leaders. We then slipped into the water in teams of three, two “buddies” and a team leader in each pod, and swam to the caves.

As we approached the Sea Caves there were three things that stood out; the geology, the crystal blue clarity of the water, and the sound of the waves ‘galumping’ against the hollows of the stone. To many, the idea of swimming into a cave, in deep cold water would be a terrifying and claustrophobic proposition beyond imagination. These six brave young women dove in and didn’t look back. They boldly went forward chasing their curiosity and the opportunity for just the right shot.

“I felt so calm. I was in my own little world. I didn’t worry about all the stressors going on in my everyday life. I left that all behind. I just sat back and listened to those beautiful waves and took amazing underwater shots.”

Jourdyn, age 15

Going Below the Surface

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The unparalleled beauty of these caves can only be fully experienced by seeing both the above water and below water elements of them. The caves that arch overhead, also arch underwater and it takes unique skill and equipment to capture the whole picture. Fortunately the group was equipped with the eye and the gear to do so.

They were driven by the inspiration that they had the unprecedented opportunity to share the beauty of this global treasure with thousands of others. They were bringing the Apostle Islands to the rest of the world.

The excellent weather made hours of photography both above and below the water possible. The morning sun reached far under the water’s surface making for exceptional photographic conditions. We swam deep into the caves and through the arches. After exploring nearly a quarter mile of shoreline, the morning came to a close. We swam onto the boat and returned to our campsite for lunch and conversation with Julie.

“Lake Superior is brilliantly blue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blue water in my life. I can see how people of other nationalities and faiths base a lot of their beliefs and practices on nature and why they cherish lakes so much.” 

Anonymous, 15

On to Eagle Island

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After eating and resting up, the group was given the unique opportunity to visit another of the Apostles. Julie ferried us around Sand Island and across three miles of open water to Eagle Island. Eagle Island, one of the smallest of the islands, sits on the far western edge of the National Lakeshore. It serves as a bird refuge and people are barred from stepping foot on dry ground there for 6 months of the year – fortunately for the group, they were remaining in the aquatic realm.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the submerged rocky ledges and deep crevasses of Eagle Island’s north shore.

By the time Julie had to part ways, the cameras were full of images and our bodies and minds were out of energy.

We returned to camp and wound down day number two on Sand Island.

“Riding on the boat with Ranger Julie Van Stappen made me feel like I was special, that she truly loved taking us out and watching us.  I hope one day I could have her take me to more of the islands.” 

Kim, age 15

Heading Back to the Mainland

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Day three defied the forecast and blew expectations out of the water. Instead of the thunderstorms and high waves that were predicted there were gentle clouds on the horizon and clear blue skies above. The water was again, warm and calm in the sheltered East Bay.

We packed up and cleaned the campsite then spent the morning with our guest, Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh. Andrew has volunteered time with Northwest Passage on two previous occasions, but this was a first for him to join a group on an expedition. On the days previous he had joined the group in the water and on land offering professional insight and tips, he had also spent time doing night photography with the girls the evening before.

This morning he set up on shore and gave the photographers the opportunity to be the stars on the other side of the lens.

After lunch, we loaded the mountain of gear onto the boat and boarded the boat heading back to the mainland. It was bittersweet partings leaving the place that we had all formed a strong bond with over the course of three short days.

Early in my career I spent four years instructing and guiding sea kayaking in the Apostle Islands. I spent thousands of hours paddling and countless nights camping in the Islands. I ushered hundreds of guests to and from the shores of the mainland out to these gems of Lake Superior. Not until this trip, did I realize the potential of this place to help those, in the most dire need of nature’s elixir, find hope and healing.

Ian Karl, Experiential Programming Coordinator

“Into the water I went. Washing away the pain the scars left. I watched the memories float down. Away from my thoughts, away from me. Submerged in the peaceful currents. I let myself go for just a moment. As I rose up out of the water. The sun seemed to shine brighter.”

Jade, age 16

Every child’s journey to mental health at Northwest Passage incorporates therapeutic elements such as those encountered while at the Apostle Islands. The girls practiced a number of therapeutic practices from time spent in nature and recreations to relaxation and time spent building relationships with peers and staff. It is opportunities like this that the girls are able to put their efforts in treatment to work in a rewarding and awesome way.

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School with Cedar

Outside the Classroom Learning

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During school hours at our Assessment Center, we engage our kids in arts, outdoor, and environmental programming, along with academic studies. It is a time for adventure and exploration – we look “outside the Passage bubble” for opportunities to interact with our surrounding communities and partnerships and keep our minds and bodies busy!

Additionally weekends have been full of hiking, fishing, swimming, and exploring our local parks.

Sketching with AiR: Cait

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Cedar, our younger kids group, participated in the Artist in Residence program with Cait Irwin at Schaefer Cabin on the Namekagon River. Many of the residents were able to connect on a personal level with Cait as they developed a rapport, spent several outings with her, and learned that everyone has struggles they work through in their lives. It was a pleasure watching them grow and become more confident in their drawings and expressing themselves through these means. At each outing, residents were given a communal sketch book to use and were introduced to authentic artist’s tools. We spent a portion of the time working independently to create our sketches, coming together at the end to share our work, thought processes, and ideas about our artwork.

Exploring and Photographing Nature

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Parts of these trips were also spent exploring the woods of Schaefer Cabin, the stream, and the environment surrounding us. We took advantage of this environment and spent time on our photography unit. A favorite was capturing the local wildlife which included frogs, soft-shelled turtles, snakes, spiders, and bugs.

Attending the Reception

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Three residents were able to help wrap up our experience by attending the Artist in Residence Reception at our Gallery. Cait was generous enough to spend part of her last day with us as we did some free sketching and observing at the Assessment Center.

Hands-on Learning Activities

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Much of the learning that occurs for our residents is through experiencing new places and knowledge and dealing with it in a hands-on approach. Cedar has gotten to explore different lakes and outdoor spaces surrounding us by swimming, critter catches, making I-movies, and creating presentations about our environments.

One of our culminating activities was going for a swimming trip to the Best Western in Siren for an open swim time. Residents greatly enjoyed this trip and got the chance to challenge staff in several kids vs. staff challenges. There was great sportsmanship and much enthusiasm when the kids were victorious in several of these events!

Every Friday afternoon Cedar participates in the In a New Light photography programming and has a new park or trail that we explore.

Reading Program

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To keep up with our reading we have been reading class books together every several weeks, including – The BFG by Ronald Dahl. As we read along with these books we enjoy creating projects, dioramas, posters, and other art projects around the themes. We enjoyed attending the movie after finishing the book and compared them to see if they are similar or different.

Previously we read Holes and had a variety of projects associated with this book. We also enjoyed a variety of other picture and chapter books that reflected our group’s areas of interest.

Learning Communication from Sammy

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As we continue throughout the school year, we look forward to more adventures and experiences ahead of us! A recent highlight was having Sammy, a therapy dog, come in for weekly visits with the kids. Many of the favorite activities are playing fetch, reading to her, and practicing open and clear communication by teaching her new tricks and practicing her obedience training.

Hannah Curran, Assessment Teacher

 

Northwest Passage is dedicated to providing access to all eight elements of living a therapeutic lifestyle in a myriad of unique ways. Our teachers are known for incorporating them in the lessons that they teach the kids every day. These are just a few of the many examples where they are leaving the “traditional classroom.”

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In a New Light to visit the Dry Tortugas

UNFORGETTABLE UNDERWATER EXPERIENCE FUNDED BY NPS

Northwest Passage has long crafted experiential programs that harness the transformative power of water, national parks, adventure, and awe. Soon these four elements will come together in the most powerful way imaginable as we embark on an underwater photography expedition to Dry Tortugas National Park.

This tiny cluster of islands in the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles by boat from Key West, Florida, will become our home for a week. The islands were first named by famed explorer Ponce deLeon and once frequented by pirates but, cameras in hand, we’ll be seeking a different kind of treasure. The Dry Tortugas are known as one of the world’s premier snorkeling and underwater photography destinations.

This expedition is funded by the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center, a team of elite divers, photographers, and archaeologists who study and document the underwater realm of America’s National ParksBrett Seymour and Susanna Pershern, of the Submerged Resources Center, and two of the nation’s most elite underwater photographers, will be guiding and instructing our four young photographers/explorers.

The Northwest Passage team will be completed by Northland College’s Dr. Toben LaFrancois, one of our underwater photography programming leaders. Our staff is looking forward to having such a talented crew together in one spectacular place to capture the splendor of the iconic destination.

The entire experience will be captured by a film crew from Curiosity Stream, a global online documentary film channel available through most online streaming platforms. Stay tuned!

This expedition is the capstone experience for Lakeshore’s underwater photography program. For the past several years, our young New Light Under the Surface photographers have gained wide acclaim for creating a definitive artistic and ecological record of the previously unseen (and unappreciated) subsurface realm of St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, Apostles Islands National Lakeshore, and other iconic northern waters. Throughout these explorations, they’ve articulated deep insight into the transformative power of their deeply immersive experience. In doing so, they’ve created a new sense of value for our wild waters. Now, stay tuned as our artists turn their fresh lenses and emotional perspectives onto the bathwater warm coral reefs of one of America’s most remote and stunning national parks.

Ben ThwaitsProgram Development Coordinator

Northwest Passage is grateful for all of our partners that make things possible for our kids. The National Park Service Submerged Resources Center and Dr. Toben Lafrancois are two of many who have given our clients an opportunity that many of them have only dreamed of. Thank you to all these wonderful organizations and individuals who donate their resources to us!

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Riverside boys soaring to new heights

PHOTOGRAPHY, COMMUNITY SERVICE, AND FLYING ALL ROLLED INTO ONE

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1537, of Siren, WI, is giving a few of our kids an opportunity that has and will send them to new heights. The group of pilots has given them the chance to serve their team and have offered to take us flying so that our young photographers can test their skills at aerial photography.

The kids took photos and watched stunt pilots perform, while also helping with other tasks like crowd supervision, during the Gandy Dancer Fly In/Drive In Airshow. This show helped to build their confidence, as they were asked to help manage the spectators around the airshow area. It helped to connect them with some more role models and allowed them to give back to our community. They also got to practice their photography skills. And most of all … they were inspired by the people!

Xavier, 14 – Riverside Client reflects on experience:

I recently had the opportunity to meet Susan Dacy at the Gandy Dancer Airshow in Siren, WI. Susan was the ONLY woman to perform in the show.

Susan Dacy, along with Big Red, are such a phenomenal team. Susan really relies on Big Red to help put her skills to the test. Her Sterman Aircraft was by far my favorite to take pictures of. The vibrant colors of “Big Red” really drew me in.

Susan was so willing and open to sharing her experiences with both kids and adults. As she was talking, I quickly noticed how passionate she was for flying. She described how she became very interested in flying at a very young age. I became so fascinated by how much she knew. One of the first questions I remember asking her was “How do you fit inside of that little compartment?” She explained that it was a little bit of a challenge considering there was not a whole lot of room. I also noticed as I watched Susan interact with younger kids that she had such a warm smile on her face. I think it really lit them up.

I really enjoyed meeting Susan Dacy. It felt wonderful to be able to have the opportunity and I am so happy and honored to have had the chance to meet and talk with such a kind and talented woman. She is a great person with so much experience. Susan really takes pride in what she is doing.

Having such a positive experience with Susan really made me realize that I could be whatever I want to be as long as I put my mind to it.

Thank you for sharing your time with us Susan!

Next, the kids get to take part in the EAA Young Eagles event happening at the Siren Airport. They will get the full experience getting to fly with the other kids participating. They will bring their cameras to take aerial shots, but also help the EAA group by taking photos of the kids and pilots before they take their turn in the cockpit.

At Northwest Passage we know that service to others not only provides benefits to those who receive, but also to those who give. Our kids get the opportunity to give to the Siren Chapter of the EAA by helping them with their events, but the EAA pilots are also giving to our kids by volunteering to take them up in their planes and being strong role models for our youth.

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