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

Maple takes first in Siren Summerfest Chalk Art Competition

A humid, rainy day is not ideal weather for a festival, however, that’s what was provided for the Siren Summerfest Chalk Art Competition. The optimism of the Maple unit, a competitor in the contest, was abounding and brightened the gloom of a possible thunderstorm.

When we arrived at the old Fourwinds Market parking lot and saw that it was vacant of competitors, truth be told, I was nervous about the Maple units reactions to the possibility of the event being canceled. To my relief, they were understanding and said it was okay. I gave them two choices, we could turn around now and have a regular day of Saturday programming, or we could play at the park and go back when we felt tired out. When one of the residents asked to check the sign out by the road to see if there was any new information about the event, out of blind optimism, I said sure, maybe it moved.

Lo and behold, IT MOVED to Crooked Lake Park! The fish pavilion was our new destination! As we gathered our blankets and chalk, I anticipated there being a few contestants already hard at work with masterpieces, but to our surprise, Maple unit was the first to arrive! The group convinced Olivia, one of Maple’s Weekend Primaries, to participate as well and she sidled up right next to us creating her own brilliant artwork.

Maple unit began mapping out their plans and was fast at work in harmony and contentment. The artwork began to take shape and transformed into a whimsical underwater visual splendor with the main subject, a Mermaid, eating a cheeseburger. This completely encapsulates the Maple unit’s humor and style constantly quoting funny movies and telling jokes.

Time flew by and our 5’ by 5’ square was complete, but Maple unit and Olivia were the only competitors! The Siren Chamber of Commerce, Chris, pulled me aside and asked if Maple unit would enjoy the prize items that were originally dedicated for a much younger group, a large basket of Crayola art supplies, to which I had to reply “ABSOLUTELY!”

Maple unit was incredibly gracious when they accepted 1st place and were awarded the treasures of the grand prize. They stood proudly by their work for some photo ops and we ended the morning by having lunch and a treat at the local Dairy Queen, which many Maple residents would argue that Pop Rocks DO belong in ice cream. What a great day it turned out to be and I am so incredibly proud of the Maple unit’s accomplishment.

Happiness through Kindness and Service

At Northwest Passage, we understand the importance of living a therapeutic lifestyle. One important element of that therapeutic lifestyle is service. Participating in service and exemplifying kindness can help not only those at the receiving end of the generosity but also those who give. Kindness is good for a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Practicing kindness can make a person happier, improve physical health, and even lengthen a person’s lifespan.

Neuroscience and psychology offer scientific evidence that shows the physical and emotional benefits of service and acts of kindness. According to research from Emory University, when a person does an act of kindness or service the pleasure centers of the brain light up. These are the same areas that light up for the person receiving the kindness. This distinct physical sensation that is associated with helping is known as the “helper’s high”. Performing acts of kindness increases the serotonin level in the brains of both the giver and recipient of the kind act; even anyone who simply witnesses the act gets the boost! This increase in the brain’s feel-good chemical causes both the giver and recipient to feel stronger, more energetic, calmer and less depressed.

Kindness also helps to build and nurture social relationships. Showing kindness and empathy helps us to relate to others, making the relationships we build more positive and fulfilling. Any behavior that gets people interacting with one another can generate positive feelings. Naturally, any activity that involves participating in service or an act of kindness involves interacting with others. In doing service you are showing kindness and compassion for another person.

Helping others also buffers the negative effects of stress on one’s well-being. By showing empathy and doing acts of kindness a person is distracted from any negative thoughts that may be weighing on themselves. By focusing on being compassionate or kind to others, a person is responding to their own pain and the other’s pain with compassion and caring action. When you tune into another’s needs and send compassionate thoughts to them it fills you with more energy. It is human nature to want to help someone that is suffering or in need of help. We care about others and it feels good to relieve the stress we feel when we see another suffering.

Being compassionate, kind, and doing acts of service produces a sense of fulfillment. By helping others, one has a greater feeling of self-worth and purpose. You feel better mentally and emotionally when you stop thinking about negative stressors in your own life and take a few moments to help someone else in need. Being kind is good for yourself and those around you.

 

 

           

We are always looking for ways to give our residents an opportunity to engage in the community through acts of service. Over the years the kiddos have shoveled snow off numerous wheelchair ramps, planted 60,000 white pines, cleaned hundreds of miles of roadsides, stacked hundreds of cords of wood for “Interfaith Caregivers”, helped set up the Siren Lions Club garage sale for the past ten years, helped load vehicles at the local food shelf and helped clean hundreds of Northwest, WI boat and canoe landings. This is just a short list of the many ways that our kiddos get involved in the community. Service not only helps the kids on their path towards hope and healing but also allows them to foster healthy relationships with community members.

By working directly with the community the residents begin the healing process by feeling wanted and accepted. Their sense of self-worth explodes in a positive direction when an elderly lady says “Thank you, young man, for helping me”.  Hope for a better tomorrow is restored by the gratitude and the shining beacon of the local community while embracing the kids within its light and showing genuine humanity and resound.

Justin Stariha

Expressive Arts Instructor

Service gives the kiddos a sense of accomplishment, pride and overall satisfaction in knowing they are contributing to a community.  Often times, service becomes an important part of their wellness plan when they leave Passage to continue their contribution to the community they return to.

Amanda Lundquist

Program Coordinator

Celebrating Pride Through Acceptance

June was Pride month, and at Northwest Passage, the kids in Prairieview were given the opportunity to reflect upon Pride in a different light through discussion and artistic expression. Staff member, Leonora, asked the kids to focus not on accepting members of the LGBTQ+ community, but on those who reject it. The kids discussed what acceptance means to them and how they should not try to tell those who disagree what to think but to accept their beliefs and views in the same way they expect their beliefs to be accepted. She encouraged the kids to become advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, to help people that do not agree understand and hopefully reach mutual acceptance. The discussion not only centered around acceptance, but also around what love outside of romance or sexuality means to them and why that is important to understand in talking about acceptance.

As a member and advocate of the community myself, I find it equally important to learn to accept people having difficulty

accepting something as it is to get them to accept.

~ Leonora Otto, Youth Development Specialist

In celebrating Pride month, it is important to recognize the allies of the LGBTQ+ community and not just the supporters. It is important to give the kids the chance to have an open discussion about pride and acceptance, to help them reach acceptance not only for those that may disagree with them but acceptance for themselves.

Artist in Residence: Kat King Making Connections Through Music

Artist in Residence Kat King brings joy and inspiration through music!

For the past four weeks, creativity has been bountiful at Schaefer Cabin thanks to our wonderful Artist in Residence Kat King. Kat has spent the last month living at Schaefer Cabin sharing her talent and passion for music with the kids. Groups from each unit were able to visit Kat at the cabin each week and experience all that music can do to benefit a person’s mental and emotional state. Writing, playing, and listening to music can be a positive outlet for the kids to be able to outwardly portray and understand what it is they may be struggling with internally. Music is a great way for an individual to express themselves and to connect with a group, making it easier to open up and communicate emotions and thoughts.

At Northwest Passage, this year, the Artist in Residence program allowed our residents to explore their imagination, use

creative writing to express themselves, and find purpose in their lives through the vehicle of music. Truly, it’s been amazing 

to behold a glimpse of their stories taking flight. 

~ Molly Thompson, Expressive Arts Instructor

The process of songwriting began with the kids and Kat going on a silent nature hike down to the Namekagon River and through the woods, observing their senses and surroundings. After the hike, the kids were given time to free-write about what they saw, heard, and felt. Once everyone was given the time to reflect, the kids began to share the things in nature they observed. As the kids shared, Kat wrote down all the different expressions and metaphors that the kids used to relate nature back to their experiences. In no time the groups had established a unique, collaboratively written song. The kids then worked with Kat on the melodies, and getting their songs performance ready for the Artist Reception that was held at the end of Kat’s stay.

Many of their writings were incredibly deep and insightful and before I knew it we had a whole marker board full of potential

song lyrics and ideas. It was fun to see one kid share an idea and soon other kids in the room were lighting up and sharing

their own ideas, the room alive with a creative energy that I live for. The cabin allowed me the space and solitude to come up

with melodies to their lyrics and seeing their reactions from watching their songs come to life was incredibly rewarding. 

~ Kat King

Artist in Residence

Watching the process unfold and ideas come together, the introspection and the laughter, and the creativity and insight guided by a gifted artist and team of dedicated counselors was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Kat helped the kids to not only find the musicians and songwriters within themselves but also to incorporate lyrics with metaphors from nature and their own journeys of mental health. The songs they created helped to show their true selves and they will become part of the way that they define themselves to the world.

~ Ian Karl

Experiential Programming Coordinator

Songs

Raging Fire

By  Maple

 

If I go near the water, my flames might burn out

So I stand here staring with this fear and doubt, fear and doubt

This fast moving current fills me with dread

All these “what if’s” swirling around in my head, in my head

Chorus:

A few drops of water may dampen the flame

But the current can’t stop me, I’ll rise above the pain

I take a deep breath and my dreams rage on

Pushing past the water that’s confined me so long

My mental health may have left a smudge

But watch me trek on through the sludge, through the sludge

Jumping this river may help me say

I made it through another day, another day

Chorus:

Oh – oh – oh- oh- oh- oh- oh (4X)

Bridge:

My hopes and dreams rage on

Because of the fire, the forest lives on

My roots are settled deep and strong

I finally feel like I belong

Wooden Palace

By Willow

Birds call out somewhere above

Welcoming us with their songs of love

Let the river lead you there

It can guide you anywhere

Hearing birds sing as we walk

I would rather listen than talk

I can hope, I can dream

I can laugh, I can sing

Trees stand tall, peace sets in

Schaefer Cabin is a win

Palace full of positivity

It can be your friend if you let it be

Unplugged with an open heart

Absorbing nature brings a new start

Set things free, let them live

Endless vibes nature can give

Enter in, forget your worries

Let it speak, hear the stories

Trees stand tall, peace sets in

Schaefer Cabin is a win

River of Sorrow, River of Hope

By Riverside

The river rushing by, I’m getting passed by

I’m stuck while things keep moving

Sometimes life isn’t for choosing

The process, oh, so slow

Leaves are the first to go

Now a log, but once a tree

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be

I have hit rock bottom, now it’s time to rise

Maybe getting stuck was a blessing in disguise

These layers are holding me together

My temporary home – I won’t be stuck forever

This is just a pause

The things I’ve been through, the things I have seen

The things I have witnessed – I wish my mind was clean

I’ve come to realize I wouldn’t change a thing

Everything I’ve been through

It’s made me who I’m meant to be

Once a river of sorrow

Now the river of hope

Fast or slow

Ready for the torrential flow

Life is Nature

By Oak

 

I have the eye of sight, but I can’t see

Feels like I’m being walked on like leaves

Would somebody please show respect to me

River is the path driven by the current

Taking away the pain so I won’t feel hurt

Chorus:

Standing tall and firm like a tree

And ask for what I need

I can be as confident as I want to be

River is flowin’ like the breeze that’s blowin’

Always flowing forward, I won’t go back

Looking downstream with uncertainty

Not knowing where it leads

Fill up my soul with the peace it needs

I’m beginning to see this positivity

The path that is within me

The path that is within me for which I need

I believe there’s a magic about the Artist in Residence program that no other program can grasp. I get to see the residents

engage each moment we spend at Schaefer Cabin and watch them grow as a unit and as individuals, which helps

tremendously in their self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness. The program also connects them with nature,

creativity, and the relationships they form while at Northwest Passage. 

~ Molly Thompson

Expressive Arts Instructor

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Reunion

Save the Date and Spread the Word!

It has been forty years since Northwest Passage opened their doors to hope and healing, and none of it would have been possible without our amazing staff!

Join us on Saturday, August 25 to celebrate the role that staff has played in the forty year legacy of Northwest Passage – past and present! This employee-led event will be hosted at the Band Shell at the Crooked Lake Park in Siren, WI. Come for the music, the BBQ, the yard games tourney, and the memories…stay for the fun!

  • WHO: Northwest Passage Employees and their families
  • WHAT: BBQ picnic to celebrate past and present staff
  • WHEN: Saturday, August 25, 4 pm
  • WHERE: The Band Shell at Crooked Lake Park in Siren, WI

Join our Facebook Group: NORTHWEST PASSAGE EMPLOYEE PAGE to receive event updates and to RSVP

OR

RSVP in the Google Form below!

Can’t wait to celebrate! Hope to see you all there!

We’re Looking for YOU!

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

JOB DESCRIPTION
We provide a unique 30-day mental health evaluation and aftercare strategy program for male and female children ages 6 to 17. The patient population reflects a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders in the context of primary psychosocial concerns often involving substantial adverse childhood experience.  The associated learning, behavioral, and psychological complications are a significant component of daily evaluation and consultation.

The predominant position responsibilities include conducting neuropsychological evaluations and preparing neuropsychological reports.  There is often daily consultation within our team that includes neuropsychologists, a psychometrician, a pediatrician, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, case managers, therapists, special education staff, patients, and patient families. In addition to this multidisciplinary communication and collaboration, a weekly meeting of all teams involves in-depth case discussion of each resident/patient. Research opportunities are emerging and can be matched to applicant interest.

This pleasant, casual work setting is located in Northwestern Wisconsin in close proximity to state and national forests, the shores of Lake Superior, and the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway.  Outdoor recreation is available for all seasons. Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area is nearby as well. Numerous cultural and recreational opportunities offer a high quality of life.

The position offers a competitive benefits package including signing bonus, relocation, liability insurance, life insurance, healthcare, PTO, funding for professional development and continuing education, potential student loan reimbursement, and 401k retirement contribution.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Completes all required documentation in an accurate and timely manner
  • Understands and follows agency policies
QUALIFICATIONS
  • Licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin and qualify for reimbursement by Wisconsin MA and third party or should be eligible for Wisconsin licensure.
  • Doctoral degree from an APA-accredited program in clinical psychology
  • Completion of an internship with experience in pediatric neuropsychology
  • Completion of a fellowship with experience in pediatric neuropsychology
BENEFITS
  • Signing Bonus
  • Relocation
  • Liability Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Healthcare
  • Paid time off and paid holidays
  • Funding for professional development and continuing education
  • Possible student loan reimbursement
  • 401k retirement contribution

Seizing the Light

PRAIRIEVIEW ARTISTS PRESENT: SEIZING THE LIGHT

The light dances off the surface of the crystalline surface.

Light penetrates the recesses of the hollow spots.

The hidden bright spots can be found in surprising spots if the light is right.

This is Seizing the Light.

We hosted an artist reception to celebrate the opening of Seizing the Light, a new exhibit featuring the work of our Prairieview kids. Molly, their artistic director, who infuses art therapy into her work with the kids, “This show captured the beauty of the way the light dances on the blank canvases of snow, the warm neutral tones of the winter brush, and the sparkle of the ice crystals.”

You can see the full show at the In a New Light Gallery located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, Wisconsin. Our gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., stop by anytime!

Excerpts from the latest show:

“Thoughts” by Candus, 15

“Cold and frozen, brittle and broken, lost yet found, beautiful they say but self-conscious deep down inside, hidden but right in the center, hurt but smiling because I’m still trying …”

“What’s on the Inside” by Malia, 16

“No one in this world will ever be able to figure out what one person is like unless they put in the time and effort to get to know them. People are absolutely incredible and completely one-of-a-kind.”

“Angel” by Sidney, 16

“Haze” by Beaux, 13

“If you want to know who you are, you have to look at your real self and acknowledge what you see”-Itachi Uchiha

“Neglect” by Anonymous, 15

“Neglect. Broken, hurt. Crying, suffering, damaging. Dad, beer, contact, love. Laughing, hugging, smiling. Fulfilled, joy. Attention.”

“Fear Has No Power Over You” by Jazzlyn, 16

“Fear is an emotion, it can’t hurt you, touch you, or hold power over you. You’re in control of your emotion, especially your fears.”

NORTHWEST PASSAGE HITS THE BASKETBALL COURTS

NORTHWEST PASSAGE HITS THE BASKETBALL COURTS

Northwest Passage’s Prairieview program, serving young women aged 12-17, has formed a basketball team – the Passage Pioneers. The team will be a continuation of Passage’s commitment to fostering a therapeutic lifestyle for our kids by hitting on three of the eight elements of a healthy lifestyle: exercise, recreation, and relationships. The coach, Taylor Mathias, proposed the idea because he wanted to give the girls an opportunity that most other residential treatment facilities aren’t able to offer. He also wanted to give them the chance to be part of a team. Coach Taylor says, “Playing on a basketball team is a powerful way to form bonds. The connection you share with your teammates goes a long way in developing trust and relationship skills.” Teammate Jay agrees, “My favorite part about being on the team is being able to work with new people and build up relationships.”

The Pioneers began their inaugural basketball season with early morning practices last week. Coach Taylor says of the 6:45 am practices, “the girls are very tired at the start of practice but it is a great way for them to start the day. The physical activity allows them to focus outwardly on what they’re doing and to get out of their heads for a bit. It has been incredibly powerful already.”

They are looking forward to getting out into the community to take on local public schools in the area this basketball season. The teammates all share similar feelings of nervousness and excitement for the upcoming games. One teammate comments, “I feel confident and a little nervous, but I’m prepared. I just want to have fun and I want to see my teammates happy and proud of themselves too.”

The girls are very grateful for the opportunity to be the first basketball team for Northwest Passage. Teammate Jordyn explains, “Being on the first ever team at NWP means something powerful. Calling myself a pioneer makes me confident.” Teammate Malia agrees, “It’s a very proud feeling. I suppose you could say it’s kind of like making history.”

Northwest Passage is blazing the trail in the mental health field and now on the basketball court too. How fitting to call these girls “Pioneers”.

Game Date     Game Time                 Opponent                               Location

12/4/2017       4:15 PM                       Frederic JV                              Frederic HS

12/5/2017       5:45 PM                       Webster JV                              Webster HS

1/13/2018       11 AM, 12 PM             Arcadia, Mondovi C-Squad     Mondovi HS

1/18/2018       4:30 PM                       St. Croix Falls C-Squad                        SCF HS

1/30/2018       4:30 PM                       St. Croix Falls C-Squad                        SCF HS

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All the Boos Without the Booze: How to Have a Haunting Halloween in Sobriety

Article Submitted by guest author Caleb Anderson of Recovery Hope
Photo Credit: hzv_westfalen_de, Pixabay

While celebrating Halloween may have previously entailed dressing up in a costume, heading to a party, and drinking alcohol or using substances, now that you’re in sobriety, that’s obviously not a party you want or need to attend. Luckily, there are plenty of more low-key and sober options that are fun or scary, and some are a little bit of both. From themed parties to scary movie marathons, you’re sure to find a way to have a haunting Halloween in sobriety.

Throw a Themed Party

Hosting your own sober Halloween party is a great way to celebrate the holiday without the presence of substances. Make the party a themed celebration to take the festivities up a few notches. The decorations, food, beverages, and costumes can be centered on the theme. For example, you can host a Harry Potter-themed party, complete with a Sorting Hat game and Golden Snitch cake pops. Ask guests to dress like their favorite houses or characters.

A Nancy Drew Mystery Party and a Clue-themed party are also great ideas. Either option sets up the opportunity to have guests solve mysteries during the get-together. For Clue, guests can wear colors of their favorite characters, and a Nancy Drew can feature magnifying glass cookies and campy detective decor. Other themes can be The Nightmare Before Christmas, a mad scientist’s lab, or a haunted house.

Host A Pumpkin Carving Party

Carving pumpkins is one of the most popular Halloween traditions, so why not host a pumpkin carving party on Halloween night? You can either provide pumpkins for everyone or ask guests to bring their own pumpkins. If you choose the latter, you should still have a few on hand in case someone forgets to bring one. The best carving pumpkins are smooth, firm, and symmetrical. You can also print out pumpkin-carving templates and patterns.

Carving outside is ideal since pumpkin carving can get messy, but if the weather doesn’t permit outdoor carving, set up a station inside. Cover the tables with newspaper, kraft paper, or a disposable tablecloth. Because pumpkin flesh and seeds can be slippery, consider covering the floors too. Serve fall-inspired food, drinks, and desserts like pumpkin-shaped cheese balls, warm apple cider, and leaf-shaped cookies.

Go to a Halloween Party

Instead of hosting your own Halloween party, you can attend a friend’s spooky bash. However, planning ahead before you go is crucial if you go this route. Bring a sober friend with you if possible, and always determine transportation arrangements beforehand. Either drive your own car or have the number of a cab company in your phone so that you can leave when you’re ready, especially if you start to feel uncomfortable.

Someone may offer you a drink without knowing you’re in sobriety, or someone may try to pressure you into using substances. Think of a script to say “no” so the person knows you’re definitive in your decision. Also, when you arrive at the party, scope out the layout so you can have a smooth exit if you need to leave.

Visit a Haunted City

This Halloween, take a trip to a city with a haunting history. Whether you live on the East Coast or the West Coast or somewhere in between, there’s bound to be a haunted city near you. Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA are two of the most popular destinations. Some hauntings in Charleston have been reported since the 1700s when pirates were hung, and Savannah is dubbed “the most frightening city and seaport in all of America” by the Travel Channel.

Boston, MA is an obvious choice because of the soldiers who perished in the Revolutionary War, but it’s also home to the first person to be persecuted as a witch. San Antonio, TX features a few haunted hotels, which have been the site of murder and disruption throughout history. You can also add St. Paul, MN; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Gettysburg, PA; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Portland, OR; Washington, DC; and Charlotte, NC to your list.

Of course, you shouldn’t feel bad about staying home and watching scary movies or handing candy out to trick-or-treaters. You should do whatever you feel comfortable doing that doesn’t involve using substances. As long as you make a plan and prepare for the evening, you can have a fun and frightful Halloween while staying focused on your goal of sobriety.

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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