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NORTHWEST PASSAGE GROWS CAPACITY FOR HOPE IN WISCONSIN

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 country. 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.

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16th Annual Golf Scramble

Northwest Passage held its 16th annual Passage Golf Scramble at the Frederic Golf Course. It was a huge success with dozens of community members and organizations stepping up to support the organization devoted to healing children for nearly 40 years. Over $22,000 was raised to support both current and past residents on their road to recovery and as they demonstrate success both during treatment, through therapeutic programming opportunities, and after, though the Alumni Award Fund.

For more information about Northwest Passage call 715-327-4402 or visit us at nwpltd.org.

Resources: Photos courtesy of Dillon Vibes

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.

In a New Light Gallery to host student film premier from Panama expedition

Northwest Passage Expeditions, Northwest Passage’s newest therapeutic program for students ages 18-24, has spent the past month on a filmmaking expedition in Panama.  Mentored by Sachi Cunningham, a renowned San Fransisco-based documentary filmmaker and photographer, the students created a series of short documentary films about “Blue Mind,” the emotional and psychological benefits of being in or near water.   The students will show will their films and talk about their experiences at the In a New Light Gallery in Webster on Wednesday, August 16 from 3:30–5:30 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

 

“The students have accomplished something extraordinary” said Ben Thwaits, coordinator of the program.  “Not only have they mastered advanced skills as documentary filmmakers in less than a month, but they’ve also integrated themselves within new community and a new culture to find some truly fascinating people and stories.  Their films are powerful and moving, and they’re expressing new and important ideas. The experience is transformative on so many levels.”

 

After a 10-day orientation in Wisconsin, the students spent nearly a month based on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, where they explored the region to spend time with people’s whose lives are centered on the water, from local fisherman to champion surfing celebrities.  With each, they explored the nature of their connection to the water. While the expedition focused on filmmaking, the students’ therapeutic experience was the primary objective.  “Adventure is inherently therapeutic” says Thwaits.  “Sometimes you have to remove yourself from the life you know in order to more clearly see the life that is waiting for you.”

 

The expedition to Panama was funded in part by the generous contribution of Darby and Geri Nelson.

 

About Northwest Passage

With locations in the northwestern Wisconsin communities of Frederic and Webster, Northwest Passage offers comprehensive residential mental health services to young people, with the aim of restoring dignity, emotional wholeness, and a sense of self worth.  Northwest Passage Expeditions is a new adventure-based program that partners world-class explorers, artists, and scientists with mental health professionals to lead therapeutic expeditions around the world for 18-24-year-olds.  www.northwestpassageexpeditions.org

 

About Sachi Cunningham, Panama filmmaking teacher

 

As a documentary filmmaker, Cunningham’s stories have screened at festivals worldwide, and on outlets including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, PBS FRONTLINE, FRONTLINE/World and the Discovery Channel. The Emmys, Webbys, and Pictures of the Year International have honored Cunningham’s work. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, Cunningham’s documentaries focus on international conflict, the arts, disability, and the ocean environment. On land she has turned her lens everywhere from the first presidential election in Afghanistan, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the water, she has swum with her camera along side everything from 350-pound blue fin tuna to big wave surfers, to Olympian, Michael Phelps. Once an assistant to actress Demi Moore and Director/Producer/Writer Barry Levinson, Cunningham brings a decade of experience in feature films and commercial productions in New York, Hollywood and Tokyo to her career in journalism and filmmaking.

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!

Spotlight Reception for Cait Irwin

WEBSTER, WISCONSIN – June 30, 2017 Northwest Passage hosted Artist in Residence, Cait Irwin at the New Light Gallery to recognize her exclusive Northwood’s Collection and the work she has done with the Passage residents. This is a chance to see one-of-a-kind artwork made possible through a unique artist and student collaboration.

During a short presentation, Irwin will be discussing her own battle with mental health issues and how she learned to use art as a positive outlet. At age 14, she started writing in a personal journal. Which quickly transformed into her book titled, Conquering the Beast Within.

With a background in expressive arts, history with mental illness and a passion to share her story, Irwin was the ideal inaugural candidate to kick off the new Artist in Residence program back in the summer of 2016. This will be Irwin’s second summer spent at Schaefer Cabin in Webster, WI. She explains how working with others is a life calling for her, “Art has saved my life many times and I feel like it is my responsibility to pass on any coping skills I have learned along the way.”

Made possible through partnerships with St. Croix Valley Foundation and the National Park Service, the 2017 Artist in Residence program is a way for the Passage residents to express themselves through a creative medium. For many of the kids, it is the first time they are given the opportunity to explore sculpture, photography, poetry or musical instruments. When words fail, giving kids the tools to discover a different outlet can help them with their own understanding of their emotions.

An Interns Prospective: Adjusting to Life at Schaefer Cabin

  

The Challenges

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There is quite a bit of adjusting to do moving into Schaefer Cabin. Having spent the last four years living in a city, I’ve had to readjust to swarming bugs, ticks, and poison ivy. Those are constants when spending time outside unless there’s a breeze which feels amazing in early Wisconsin summer! The quiet and seclusion is also a big adjustment, though I’ve found it very refreshing and rejuvenating. I’m often falling asleep to the sounds of whippoorwills singing through the woods but I don’t mind it (and ear plugs are always an option). I do tend to feel a bit antsy with extended time out here because I enjoy city life so having a town about 30 minutes out gives me a little fix when I have to do grocery shopping or attend weekly meetings. Sharing a space with two strangers is, of course, it’s’ own adjustment as well, but the seclusion and lack of working Wi-Fi forces conversation that might happen less slowly in a typical setting with a million distractions.

The Positives

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The experience is once in a lifetime. I’ve never been in such a quiet setting surrounded by this kind of beauty for an extended amount of time. The river right down the path is a perfect escape, place for debriefing, a place for relaxing, inspiration, or a nature fix – whether I get in the river or just sit and watch the water and trees. I can also feel the cabin’s history through its structure and design and it is very spacious. I cannot imagine a better place for brainstorming and being naturally inspired to do art. I have already written three songs because of the surroundings and the time I’ve had to reflect and write, not only on my own but during sessions with the kids as well. Living with two other artists who both bring their own mediums makes the cabin atmosphere a hot spot for creativity and ideas. It has been really important to discuss themes for the week and different plans for each group. We have had to learn to talk amongst ourselves about ideas before sharing them with the group as well as coming up with backup plans if the kids are not responding well to an exercise. This brings me to actually working with the kids. It is incredibly rewarding. I have been leading my own sessions in songwriting and have been blown away by some of their abilities and their vulnerability in sharing work that might not feel complete or “good” to them. Their writings have inspired me in my own writing and I find myself eager to keep pushing them to express themselves and to push my own writing boundaries as well. It has also been an exciting challenge participating in sessions led by Cait where I am pushed to work through her medium of art – one that I haven’t truly touched since middle school. The kids work also has inspired me to think outside of the box. Schaefer Cabin is a gem and this job feels like a hidden treasure. I could not think of a more ideal place to submerse yourself in for the purpose of creating. In many ways, my experience can serve as a mirror for the kid’s own experiences. We ask them to step out of their comfort zone and to draw on what they are feeling inside. How can we ask them to be vulnerable without being vulnerable ourselves? The Artist in Resident, Cait Irwin who lives alongside me at Schaefer Cabin says that “we need to go first,” meaning that as figures who the kids look to for leadership and guidance, we need to take the jump first to show them that it is okay to show our flaws and insecurities. Otherwise, we will never be able to gain the kid’s trust. A developing trust with the kids is imperative to do because it reiterates the safe space that we are trying to encompass them in.

 

“Living here at the cabin has really pushed me out of my comfort zone, I have been able to draw on that discomfort and use it to create something beautiful.”

Kat King, 22

                  

               

Spending time at Schaefer Cabin takes the kids away from outside distractions and gives them a chance to decompress. It gives them the ability to focus on what they are here at Passage to do. By stripping down to the basics out in the wilderness and simplifying the kids lives, they begin to learn the Northwest Passage philosophy of living aeveryday as in a therapeutic lifestyle. Read more about the eight elements at http://nwpltd.org/passageway/.

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