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Prairieview headed to Apostle Islands

KIDS TO SHARE STORIES OF AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE THROUGH THEIR PHOTOGRAPHY

Prairieview will be exploring Apostle Islands National Park and Lake Superior again this year as the capstone of their underwater photography programming. With Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh, going along, nighttime photography will also be added to the experience.

On Monday, August 22, the group will meeting up with the National Park Service Apostle Islands crew at Little Sand Bay Visitor Center. Some of the group will be kayaking, while others will ride the NPS boat from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island. After arriving and setting up camp, the kids will have time to explore the beach and island.

The next two days will be spent underwater taking photos at Swallow Point Sea Caves, along with kayaking, while their nights will be spent trying out night sky photography with Andrew on East Bay and at the Sand Island Lighthouse.

Northwest Passage thrives to bring new experiences to our kids. Over the past couple years, our teenage explorers have set out on an adventure that few have experienced with underwater photography. They have learned about and documented the underwater ecosystems of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway through stunning photographs. This journey continues in 2016 as they dive deeper into Lake Superior and other local lakes and rivers. The photographs they capture not only represent the kids’ exploration and discovery of the world underwater, but also of themselves.

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Our Kids Experience Broadway “In a New Light” … AND Sound

SENSORY-FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE OF THE BROADWAY PRODUCTION, “THE LION KING,” ALLOWS NEW EXPERIENCE FOR MANY

If you have ever shuddered due to a loud noise or had to cover your eyes due to something being extremely bright, you have experienced a very small piece of what people who have sensory sensitivities deal with on a daily basis.

Individuals with sensory sensitivities, often linked to those on the autism spectrum or other mental health challenges, usually over-respond or under-respond to stimulation. This leads to them being unable to enjoy many activities and/or experiences like attending the theater. It can also cause them to be unaware of their surroundings or display extreme behaviors, such as tantrums and meltdowns.

In order to give these people an opportunity that they have not previously had, places like Stages Theatre and Children’s Theatre Company in the Twin Cities host sensory-friendly performances throughout the year. For the first time ever, the Orpheum Theatre, a Minneapolis treasure, hosted one of these special performances with “The Lion King.”

According to the StarTribune, it was the “first Broadway production to try a special ‘sensory-friendly’ staging,” read more in, ‘Lion King’ tempers the roar.

The best part? Our kids got to be a part of this extraordinary experience. Five boys and five girls from our programs took the trip to the cities to see this production of a Disney family favorite film.

“The boys were so excited for the show that they sang Disney songs in the van all the way to the cities,” said Angela Fredrickson, Riverside Clinical Director.

The Orpheum Theatre lowered the sound, kept the theater lights on at a low level, and reduced the use of strobe and other lighting. They also allowed patrons to talk freely to each other or the performers and to leave their seats during the performance. They had designated spaces for those who needed to stand or move. There were quiet areas in the theater where people could go whenever needed and the theater was filled with trained staff who were available to help with any needs of those attending.

Viewers ranged greatly in their sensitivities. Some were severely autistic, while others had a low tolerance to loud noises or bright lights. “The boys noticed some of the other kids in the theater and reported feeling like it was an awesome opportunity for those kids and their parents to be able to attend a live performance,” Angela said.

While there were changes in lights and sounds, the play was the same. Through words, music, and dance, the performers told the tale of a young lion and his pride along the cub’s incredible journey to becoming king.

“On the way home, the girls all took time to reflect on this truly amazing experience,” explained Kristy Echeverria, Prairieview Weekend Primary Counselor

Northwest Passage is always looking for new opportunities to give to our kids. The chance to go to the Orpheum Theatre is something that we could not pass up and the fact that it was a sensory-friendly performance was the icing on the cake. “Field trips to live theater enhance literary knowledge, tolerance and empathy among students,” according to a study done by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Read more in, Major benefits for students who attend live theater, study finds.

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Swimming with a Pro

SACHI CUNNINGHAM, PRO FILMMAKER, COMES FOR 3-DAY ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

 

In an already exciting and highly productive season of underwater photography at Northwest Passage, we’re thrilled about the upcoming visit of acclaimed filmmaker and photographer Sachi Cunningham. A resident of San Francisco, Sachi’s work often centers on water stories.  Next week she’ll become part of our young photographers’ stories as she dives in as a guest mentor and Artist in Residence.

From her bio at sachicunningham.com:

“Sachi Cunningham is a documentary filmmaker and Professor of Multimedia Journalism at San Francisco State University. Her award winning 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.”

Sachi’s most recent film, The Memory of Fish, about the intertwined and precarious journeys of people and salmon on the Elwha River in Washington, was just nominated for a Panda Award—also called the “Green Oscars”— which is considered the highest accolade in the environmental film and TV industry.  Congratulations, Sachi!

Sachi will be swimming and photographing with our Prairievew girls all day Monday, followed by a film showing and discussion at Prairivew of It Ain’t Pretty a film about women’s big wave surf culture in California. Sachi was both helped shoot and was featured in this film. Then on Tuesday she’ll hang out with our Lakeshore boys.

You can check out some of Sachi’s work on her website and follow her on twitter!

 

Northwest Passage is dedicated to the artistic growth of our kids. We do this through programs like Artist in Residence (AiR). AiR is designed to provide a therapeutic experience with the arts for our kids with talented artists and craftsmen.

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Kids and Cait celebrated at Artist Reception

MIND ON PAPER SKETCH COLLAGES SHOW KIDS IN A NEW LIGHT

An Artist Reception was held at the Gallery Thursday, June 30. It celebrated our kids and their sketches during our first month-long Artist in Residence program. Muralist and painter, Cait Irwin, was the artist that took on the adventure of this project. Each kid got to spend one day each week working with Cait on drawing. Cait took the sketches the kids did, which were a piece of the child that completed them, and placed them into a collage. These “Mind on Paper” collages were hung up for the reception and will remain in the Gallery for all to enjoy for the next month.

“I can’t say enough good things about Cait. Her connection with the kids and staff was so incredible. My favorite part of the reception was seeing the kids light up when they found their drawing,” explained Chanda Elliott, Northwest Passage’s Development Director.

Read what Cait had to say about the past month:

My Northwest Passage/Schaefer Cabin Experience
Cait Irwin, Artist

When you’re a travelling artist you never really know what to expect when you arrive at a new “job” site. Especially, if it is the first go at a totally experimental program. As June drew closer my excitement had swelled to a fever pitch. It had almost been a year since my initial contact with Northwest Passage’s experiential programming coordinator and college friend, Ian Karl, about this ‘Artist in Residence’ pipe dream. It was to take place in a remote location along the Namekagon River. I wanted to jump into the month-long residency with as little expectation as possible. My mind and heart needed to be a blank canvas ready to take in this mysterious experience.

The only thing that I could expect was what I was personally going to offer. I knew that I would be sharing my experiences with mental illness, and more importantly, how I have used art throughout my life to cope.  At the same time I hoped to inspire the kids at Northwest Passage and give them a feeling of hope for the possibility of a new future. I wanted to express to them that our struggles CAN make us stronger while deepening an appreciation for the world around us.

Schaefer Cabin Residency site:
The first thing that I noticed about the cabin was the fact that it was so isolated. It was refreshing to be occupying a space where I couldn’t hear any man-made sounds. What a great reminder that wild and quiet places still exist in this insanely loud and busy world. Just the drive out to the historical Schaefer Cabin was like slowly leaving the daily hustle and my mind had the opportunity to slow down. I know that the kids and staff alike felt that too as they travelled out for our daily sketching sessions.

It was incredibly important to transform the cabin into a haven for safe self-expression and raw creation. To assist with this process I brought multiple paintings and drawings of my own to occupy the space. My work itself served as an example that when we were in the cabin we were all safe to express our innermost thoughts and feelings. While in the Schaefer Cabin, everyone’s work would be respected and celebrated, and I think it was felt by all who entered.

Art Sessions:
The design of my program was simple as I was to work with almost all of the kids currently attending Northwest Passage.  Each time they came out to the cabin they would work in a communal sketchbook. They were given a variety of pencils and charcoals to use as tools of expression. We eased into the process by starting with a “free sketch” session and then moved into more focused exercises throughout the month. The common thread in our once-a-week two-hour sessions was that it wasn’t about the end product but about the process. Also the very act of drawing seems to slow down the frantic world around you. It was also important to tell them that while they were in the cabin with me they are my art students and that I would treat them as such.

I was honestly blown away by how the Northwest Passage kids jumped right in! Almost everyone picked up a sketchbook and pencil pack and immediately worked with total focus. The cabin was filled with the sound of pencils moving across paper and in the background trees rustled, birds sang, and some classical music softly played.  What moved me the most was the fearlessness that the kids so steadily demonstrated. Not one hesitated or even mentioned their lack of artistic abilities. The idea of the “process” seemed to be a part of their own intuition.

After a solid thirty minutes (at least) of drawing we would come together as a group and share what we had created. With almost 100% participation each student showed their own unique style and perspective. The most amazing thing was that there was never a time when a participant put down another’s work. The idea of the cabin being a safe place was taken seriously amongst all of the students.

As we moved through the month and began building a genuine rapport with each other, the work began to take on a more honest and emotional tone. Sometimes the work exploded like a firework and other times it presented itself so subtly you would almost overlook it. The whole spectrum from humor to sadness was represented daily.

Sometimes on my drive home I would find myself laughing and also crying as I recalled our precious time at the cabin. Every time I left the cabin I was absolutely exhausted, and at the same time completely inspired. I could not help but think about my own time spent as a teenager dealing with depression in a very clinical setting. I would have thrived in a program like Northwest Passage … a program that embraces all of the beautiful, complex and intricate aspects of each individual, while connecting to the natural world.

Final Project: Mind on Paper Collages
At the end of our sessions the kids had the option to sign their work or stay anonymous. If they wanted to share their work with the world they would put a star in the corner. Getting their permission and giving them the option of taking ownership of their sketches was how I could show kindness and respect for their thoughts and feelings. I was truly in awe when the majority of students proudly signed their work and wanted to boldly share it with the world!

In Closing:
It makes me very proud that I was asked to be the pioneer for this unique and exciting month-long residency program. And as the initial logistical bumps began to smooth out I could see with clarity that this is the kind of work that grounds me.  I feel that it is important to share yourself with a spirit of empathy and compassion, even if only to show someone that they are not alone in the world.

There is no way I could properly capture all of the incredible aspects of this pilot program in one artist statement alone. Honestly, I am not sure that any arrangement of words could capture the transformative and inspiring nature of this residency. I have a renewed hope for the world after meeting so many dedicated staff members of Northwest Passage and the National Park Service. These individuals have put a vision of compassion, for all people, and an appreciation for the natural world into action. As for all of the kids I met, each one has renewed my calling to pass along the message that art heals. I will leave here carrying a heavy load of inspiration, memories, and exciting visions of how to keep growing this program for years to come.

 

This Artist in Residency was made possible through a generous grant from the St. Croix Valley Foundation, The Wisconsin Arts Board and Eastern National. More about Cait can be found on her website at www.irwinartworks.com.

Northwest Passage is looking for more artists that would be great role models and would like to inspire our kids to reach for their dreams. If interested, please see this web page for more information.

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Horses back on the job

USING METAPHOR TO FACILITATE CHANGE

The warm smell of hay and the sound of hoof beats will once again greet you if you visit the back lot of the Northwest Passage Gallery in Webster.  Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) sessions have resumed for the warm weather season.  EAGALA facilitators Angela Fredrickson and Shannon Brice work on a weekly basis with small groups, families, and individuals from each of the treatment programs at Northwest Passage.

The youth in the treatment programs have been working with the equine therapy team since the first week of May.  They have been exploring their path to sobriety, learning about relationship building, discovering the role of judgment in their lives, and working to find harmony in their living groups with the help of the four-legged practitioners.

This year a new horse has found her way onto the team.  Her late-in-life change in career seems to be an excellent fit as her open, expressive manner has drawn in many residents.  We are early in the season and she has already been described as “the most beautiful animal I have ever seen” and “my best friend.” Alternatively, she has also demonstrated the art of being aware of danger and the complexity of conflict as she works to reflect what has entered the arena space.

What’s up with using horses in therapy anyway?

The use of horses through the EAGALA model is experiential.  This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses and then processing or discussing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and patterns.  Through active, solution-focused participation, clients can tell their own story and begin to create metaphor that can facilitate change in their lives.

Horses are large and powerful animals which draw our attention.  It requires a level of confidence to interact with them and working to overcome fear in this work can be a useful intervention.  Additionally horses are naturally social animals and are extraordinarily sensitive to non-verbal communication. The horses’ responses give us information that can bring awareness of problem spots in our lives and can help motivate change by being an emotionally safe, external symbol of relationships.  Their responses to us can feel quite familiar to the responses we experience from those in our day-to-day lives making work with horses prime for the creation of metaphor.

Angela Fredrickson, LCSW – Clinical Director

Study on referential communication in horses:

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/37681/study-confirms-horses-talk-to-human-handlers

Link to EAGALA website

http://www.eagala.org/

Northwest Passage is committed to providing a diverse set of therapy opportunities to our kids. We are happy to be able to provide Equine Therapy sessions to our kids as an alternative way to open up and communicate about themselves and their lives. Those of us who have had an opportunity to experience the safety and comfort of Equine Therapy, can say just how special this is. Thank you to Shannon and Angela for making this happen. To learn more about our Equine Therapy sessions, please check out past articles on the subject here and here.

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Running Riverside

RIVERSIDE RESIDENT TAKES FIRST OVERALL IN 5K

The Riverside boys ran riverside at the St. Croix Falls, WI, City of Trails Trailrun. A few of our boys ran the 5K race and one even won it! Garrett took first place overall with a time of 18:03.68, with the next racer coming in almost 20 seconds later.

“I started running when I was 13 and never gave it up. I always push through the pain. Today, I showed up expecting to finish in the top five but I took first overall. When I run it feels like it’s me and the course,” Garrett explained.

The City of Trails Trailrun “5K course follows asphalt paths though beautiful woodland, city streets lined with historic houses, and quaint downtown St. Croix Falls. The last leg treks past the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Visitor Center and alongside the St. Croix River on the Gaylord Nelson Riverwalk to a spectacular finish at the Overlook Deck.” – cityoftrails5k.com

The photos of the participants were taken by a couple of their peers.

Northwest Passage believes healthy bodies help keep healthy minds. Exercise is a central component of treatment in the programs, one being running group. There is a large body of evidence that points to the benefits of exercise and movement in the promotion of both mental health and cognition. Taking part in community races is just one way to get the kids exercising.

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Artists’ Adventures Begin

KIDS WORK WITH ARTIST CAIT IRWIN AT HER SUMMER STUDIO, SCHAEFER CABIN ON THE NAMEKAGON RIVER

In her artist’s bio on the back of the book she wrote when she was sixteen, Cait Irwin said, “…in the future I hope to help others realize the healing power of art and spending time in nature.” Some years later, on the banks of the Namekagon River in a recently restored 90 year old National Park Service cabin, Cait found herself doing just that.

Northwest Passage Riverside, Prairieview, Lakeshore, and Assessment all traveled to Schaefer Cabin this week to start their month of art workshops with Cait. She broke the ice with the groups with a walk down to the river. Afterwards she shared original paintings she had displayed on the cabin walls, the meaning and process behind creating them, and telling the kids that when you create art you are sharing a part of yourself with the world. She then sat down with the kids and talked about her personal story of mental health challenges while sharing one of her books on the subject.

Cait then set the scene for a free-drawing session. Her guidelines: respect your own art, respect the art of others, and let your art share a part of yourself. What ensued with each group was nearly an hour of focused, quiet drawing with nothing but the sounds of birds, the river, and a little classical music in the background.

The kids and Cait spent the remainder of the session discussing what they had drawn and goals for the coming weeks.

Art, for Cait, has always been a passion as well as a powerful coping skill – a means of processing her world and thoughts. In 2013, she started her business, Irwin Artworks where she does everything from pen and ink drawings to massive commissioned murals. For the kids, these trips out to the cabin are a journey into the world of a professional artist and an opportunity to step into a one of a kind, creative environment. There is art and healing in the entire process. Cait says that when the kids can take even thirty minutes out of a day to focus on nothing but drawing, it helps make new connections and gives them a break from the anxieties and distractions of everyday life.

This Artist in Residency is being made possible through a generous grant from the St. Croix Valley Foundation, The Wisconsin Arts Board and Eastern National. More about Cait can be found on her website at www.irwinartworks.com.

Ian Karl, Experiential Programming Coordinator

Join us on Thursday, June 30, from 4 – 6 p.m. in celebrating Cait’s Artist in Residence at an artist reception. We will get to see work the kids did during the month and some of Cait’s original paintings. Look forward to seeing you there!

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 art. Cait Irwin is the artist to spend a month working with the kids. If you are an artist interested in volunteering, please visit our Artist in Residence page HERE.

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Prairieview dives deep into photography

RESIDENT DESCRIBES THE FEELING OF BEING UNDERWATER

The girls in the Northwest Passage Prairieview program have officially taken In a New Light (IaNL) off the deep end. This week, seven of the residents were able to embark on a whole new photography adventure and explore life under water. With the scuba and ecology expertise of our friends, Toben Lafrancois and Ian Karl, along with the assistance of two IaNL interns, Megan and Alex, these lucky ladies were able to capture a different world through the lens of a camera.

To say the day didn’t have its bumps would be a lie; when we got to the field it was rainy and cold, and several of the girls struggled to find equipment that would fit.  However; with the use of distress tolerance and radical acceptance, along with other DBT skills the girls have been working on mastering, attitudes quickly changed once in the water. No longer was the rain bothersome or the wetsuits too tight; the tension had been lifted. Not a word was spoken; nor was it needed as the girls floated on the surface of the lake allowing themselves to be consumed by the therapy of the water. My experience as a staff member is far less significant than that of the residents.

Kelly Vogen, Fitness Counselor

Libby, 16, – Prairieview Resident reflects on this first time experience:
“When you have a camera in your hands and curiosity in your heart, everything else suddenly becomes insignificant. It’s just you, the camera, and the world. Fear and anxiety are replaced by curiosity and excitement – you will stop at nothing to get that one shot you want, and your struggles take a backseat as the entirely new world you discover through your lens consumes you.

When you look under the surface for the first time and you see the aquatic menagerie of animals that scurry about just beneath the surface and the plants that sway peacefully in the current, it makes you stop and wonder what else you’ve been missing all this time. You’re no longer worried about what others will think of you, or about an upcoming test that has you stressed, or even financial issues – your ears are tuned into the tranquility of the underwater nothingness, and the sounds of people shouting over one another for no reason or of cars going nowhere fast have been left in an entirely different world.

Before IaNL, anxiety had been gnawing at my insides for years, until there was no peacefulness left. Everything put me on edge, and I had no escape. I was constantly angry for all the sickness I had been plagued with, for all the death I had dealt with, and anything else I could find a reason to be angry with. Through photography, I have been able to discover an inner-calm that I never knew before, and I have been able to focus my energy on capturing the beauty that the world has to offer for those who are willing to see it, instead of focusing on every single way that life has been unfair to me.

Underwater photography is especially meditative, because all you have to do is float and appreciate what surrounds you.”

 

Stop into the Gallery today and see last year’s New Light Under the Surface photography exhibit.

Northwest Passage is dedicated to teaching kids how to live a therapeutic lifestyle. The eight therapeutic lifestyle choices include: nature, recreation, relaxation, nutrition, exercise, relationships, service, and spirit. The New Light Under the Surface programming incorporates many of these choices. It gets the kids in nature. It gives them something recreational to do that they enjoy. It is relaxing for many. It moves their bodies for exercise. It builds relationships through the buddy system. It gives them time to reflect on what matters (spirit).

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Under the Surface is BACK

THE KIDS ARE BACK IN THE WATER

Thanks to the support of our 2015 Kickstarter campaign; an amazing $50,000 grant from Sea Grant, the aquatic world’s research arm; and the continued investments of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center – New Light Under the Surface is back and stronger than ever. In addition to another season of exploration of the mystery of the great below, we will be partnering with the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center to investigate the Dry Tortugas at the end of the season.

New Light Under the Surface has made quite the splash in the water world – famed ocean scientist and New York Times bestselling author, Wallace Nichols, invited Northwest Passage to speak at the sixth annual Blue Mind conference in California where water innovators from around the country gather to celebrate the power of our most precious substance on earth. Ben and Toben traveled to the conference with the special guest – John, a past client in love with the under water world. Fellow Blue Mind Six conference attendee, Sea Change Design founder Lauralee Alben, profiled us in a recent article What’s at Risk?. Our project partner, Toben LaFrancois,wrote a fantastic piece Diary of an Aquatic Scientist that sums up just why we do what we do.

Thank you to everyone who has supported New Light Under the Surface – now come check out the fruits of the kids’ labor at our latest exhibit: New Light Under the Surface at Northwest Passage’s Gallery, just one mile south of Webster, WI on Highway 35.

WE’D LOVE TO SHOW OFF OUR NEWEST EXHIBIT TO YOU! Visit the Gallery today!

Northwest Passage is dedicated to the recreational care of our kids. After the first year of New Light Under the Surface, we discovered that many of the kids who had the chance to dive into the water to do underwater photography, found an activity that they enjoyed. We strive to find recreational activities that the kids love and will continue to do after they graduate from our programs.

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