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Expressions in Watercolor

BRIGHT AND BRILLIANT COLOR.

BOLD AND BRAVE STROKES.

WET PAINT IN THE WELLS OF PALETTES.

INTENSE FOCUS, THOUGHTS, AND EMOTIONS ON PAPER.

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

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

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

Molly Thompson, Expressive Arts Counselor 

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

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

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

Jourdyn, age 15

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

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Travel to the Apostle Islands with our kids

Travel Logs of an Expedition of Healing

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

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

Getting to the Island

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

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

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

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

Jourdyn, age 15

Setting Up Camp

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

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

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

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

Rachel, age 15

First Night on the Island

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

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

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

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

Hailey, age 14

Exploring the Caves at Swallow Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jourdyn, age 15

Going Below the Surface

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

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

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

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

Anonymous, 15

On to Eagle Island

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

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

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

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

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

Kim, age 15

Heading Back to the Mainland

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Karl, Experiential Programming Coordinator

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

Jade, age 16

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

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New Research Supports Efforts at Passage

BEHAVIORAL THERAPY PAIRED WITH PSYCHOTHERAPY REDUCES SELF-HARM

We see evidence of the power of residential treatment paired with living a therapeutic lifestyle in our clients progress towards mental health up close and personal, but it is always nice to read research to support that experience. This year, a Norwegian study found that using “behavioral therapy that teaches coping skills, used in conjunction with psychotherapy, not only significantly reduces self-harm among adolescents but also more rapidly leads to recovery from suicidal ideation and depression than enhanced usual care.”

Program Director, Ellen Race, says that “we are always happy to see evidence that supports what we are doing for our clients.” The specific therapy addressed in the article is one that Northwest Passage uses in its Prairieview and Riverside programs, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is, “a type of therapy that focuses on developing the behaviors skills and coping mechanisms for our kiddos so that they can navigate life’s challenges in a healthy and sustainable way.” Angela Fredrickson, Clinician Director for Riverside explains. She goes on to say that, “DBT is a part of our efforts to promote the skills and experiences necessary to commit to living a therapeutic lifestyle long after treatment ends. We are giving access to our clients to practice living a healthy lifestyle and DBT fits right in with that. It is grounded in mindfulness, being active and expressive in a healthy way, and building healthy relationships – which are key elements necessary to live therapeutically.”

To learn more about the PassageWay and living a therapeutic lifestyle, please visit our website and to read the article summarizing the research in full, please visit the Medscape article: Self-harm in Teens: Rapid Response With Novel Behavior Therapy. 

We know it is essential to pair expert psychotherapy with the tools necessary to make change, it is something we do every single day with our kids. Our guiding principles are articulated through the PassageWay, which proposes that the journey to building a healthy lifestyle includes the building of skill and insight through psychotherapy intervention, the judicious use of psychotropic medication, and a commitment to providing access to therapeutic lifestyle moments for our clients to actively heal and practice being well.

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We’ve Got the Beat

CONNECTING TO A THERAPEUTIC LIFESTYLE THROUGH DANCE

A natural passion for dance struck the halls of Prairieview this winter, it quickly blossomed into a therapeutic phenomenon. We have learned throughout our history of therapeutic interventions with youth that people heal through a variety of channels. We know that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, appreciate time in nature, attend to their relationships, discover effective recreation opportunities, learn healthy nutritional habits, and move their bodies. Often those things can come together in powerful ways. Join the young women of Prairieview as they build relationships, develop strength and stamina, and rejoice in dance.

See below for the origin story of this joy filled feat of self expression taking place right here.

The Birth of a Legend

This year, Prairieview found itself in the midst of a dance phenomenon. The girls spent their down time dancing to music, dancing to the Wii games for fitness, and on the weekends they began requesting further dance fitness routines. There was spinnin’, poppin’, and jumpin’ on both units. Girls began protesting; requesting (if not downright begging) for dance competitions. With these given talents and interests of the girls, as well as the innate therapeutic value of dance, our psychological interest was perked. Plotting, proposing and planning began as the co-founders established the goals, mission and purpose. As the New Year was born, so was Prairieview’s Razzle Dazzle Dance Squad.

Mission Ahead

In the months that followed, the girls engaged in weekly practices and frequently additional practices amongst themselves. At first, they stretched and stumbled with more than few grumbles and frowns but over time with increasing enthusiasm and investment. Multiple songs were learned and rehearsed. Warm-ups were advocated for. Stretching leaders were chosen. Girls with interest or background rose to the top and gracefully became leaders; often naturally guiding and assisting girls without experience. The renegade pop-and-lock competitions died down and instead the unit was fueled with requests for additional dance time particularly for solo and duet projects that also were individually advocated for and created by each individual girl. Girls who had little or no dance experience slowly grew more confident in their “new moves.” Still other girls whom chose not to perform due to cultural, religious. or personal beliefs, participated with valuable encouragement, critiques, dress rehearsals, flyers, and even MC’ing our first performance. The girls slowly, and at first a bit begrudgingly, took ownership, investing in the group and ultimately in their performance. On that day, each one of the girls were skittish and flustered as their debut approached. It all worked though. The uncertain sound system, the nervous girls, the much anticipated audience and a lovely reception after their grand finale.  In the end, each girl glowed with pride, laughed, genuinely encouraged one another and celebrated that one special moment.

Why Dancing?

Dancing is far more than a rite of passage for many adolescent girls (and some boys). Dancing itself is expressive and inherently cathartic. It holds the power to improve emotional, cognitive, physical and social arenas. Studies have shown that dancing is beneficial to one on a physical level as it can increase muscle tone, endurance, and strength. It can also improve balance, coordination, agility and offers a fun avenue for cardio fitness. On top of all this, dance directly benefits mental health. Research shows that dance is effective for mood management, increased self-awareness, improved self-esteem, and it can provide a healthy avenue for the expression of emotions. It is often used for stress reduction and can be incorporated into yoga and mindfulness practices.

Dancing and the PassageWay

Learning to dance is a powerful expression of living a therapeutic lifestyle, a key component to the PassageWay. By learning to plan and practice new choreography, participants are actively “avoid avoiding” by taking one small step at a time in order to learn a much bigger, more complicated dance and reach completion of their goal. Furthermore, as participants work towards smaller, more achievable goals before reaching the long term goal (and fantastic performance) they are working on mastery itself. Learning dance movements and choreography requiring active participation and mindfulness as it is necessary for participants to be fully present, in mind and body, as they practice and master dance skills. For some girls, using dance as an expression of emotion can in itself be a coping skill and valuable as a built-in aspect of PLEASE MASTER to achieve further emotional regulation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, for long term success, dance is an aspect of the therapeutic lifestyle that can easily be transferred from treatment into the community via dance therapists, dance teams throughout schools nationwide, and private dance organizations. This in turn prevents success within a vacuum and instead offers participants a real-life opportunity to implement skills that they are invested in, enjoy, and are valuable towards their personal and emotional success within the community.

Resources

For additional information on the therapeutic value of dance can be found at:

American Dance Therapy Association. (2016). What is Dance/Movement Therapy. American Dance Therapy Association. Retrieved on June 2nd, 2016 https://adta.org/faqs/
Castillo, S. (2012). The Happiness Trick You Haven’t Tried. Prevention. Retrieved on June 2, 2016 from http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/dancing-shown-help-boost-happiness-and-mental-health
Jackson, M. (2004). Dance Therapy for Mental Patients. British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3551063.stm
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Dance Can Improve Mental Health of Teen Girls. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/11/22/dance-can-improve-mental-health-of-teen-girls/48024.html

Meet the Author

GINA LUNDERVOLD-FOLEY, LPC-IT  | Clinician

Gina’s work is focused around an awareness that the kids she serves have already struggled in their communities and often throughout many other therapies and placements. She sees kids come to us with no sense of hope and no one to believe in them. She believes healing is possible but for that to happen, they must have hope. Gina strives to instill hope in her kids by providing a safe place with her, to grow to trust in a therapeutic relationship, and to work toward change. She works with each of her clients to explore their past and themselves in whatever way is needed so that they can be successful in the community.

  • Specialties: DBT, CBT, ITCT-A, Narrative Therapy, Save Person-Centered Approach
  • Education: BA, Family Social Science; MS, Clinical Psychology
  • Memberships: IPPA, IATP, Association for the Development of the Person-centered Approach
  • With Northwest Passage since 2014

“Dancing is magical! It sets my mind and heart free.”

Ilyna, 15

Northwest Passage is dedicated to providing access to all eight elements of living a therapeutic lifestyle in a myriad of unique ways. We foster and celebrate staff who take a creative approach to this challenge. Thank you for taking a moment to share the origins story of a dance troop that has taken the Prairieview program by storm and has become a place of renewal, friendship, fun, and more for our girls.

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In a New Light to visit the Dry Tortugas

UNFORGETTABLE UNDERWATER EXPERIENCE FUNDED BY NPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben ThwaitsProgram Development Coordinator

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

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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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Artist in Residence: Eric Genuis and Musicians Perform for Kids

THE MESSAGE RESOUNDED THROUGH PASSAGE

Composer, pianist, and performer, Eric Genuis, accompanied by a violinist, cellist, and another singer, returned as an Artist in Residence to play for the kids of Northwest Passage for the second time in eight months. Back in October, Eric and his team played at our Gallery. This time these talented musicians spent their time playing at our Frederic location for over 30 of the kids from our programs.

Eric made the concert interactive by walking among them, asking them questions, and looking to them for questions and comments. His message was about beauty, how music has an influence on each of us, and how we should all surround ourselves with things of hope and encouragement. They played and talked for over two hours.

One of the kids said to the musicians, “your cello reminds me of my mom. It’s like the cello is the mommy, the violin is the kid, and the piano is the foster kid!”

Kristy Echeverria, Northwest Passage Weekend Counselor, describes the experience:

I have worked with kids from all walks of life and every end of the spectrum since 2008. In this time, I have found that they have one particular thing in common, their love and passion for music. It is not only love for music but also the effect that music has on them.

Eric Genuis coming in and playing for the kids at Northwest Passage was an incredible experience. The kids were so engaged and in awe of the beauty that took place. For many of them this was the first time they had heard music that wasn’t playing on the Pop charts.

They responded incredibly well to Eric’s messages. They really absorbed his main message on how what music we put in our brains is the type of output we get. Not only did he demonstrate this by playing three types of music to the same story, but he also discussed his knowledge of other artists. It was wonderful to see their reactions when Eric was able to list off facts about the artists they are currently listening to.

As he spoke, I was able to see a small, fiery passion spark in many of the kids. Several asked questions and a few even had the opportunity to have a small jam session with him after the show.

Eric truly brought an amazing message that seemed to hit home with many. They even continued to discuss it days later. He did a great job, not only performing, but being able to engage in a more personal manner with them. We are truly thankful that he and his musicians took the time to share their talents, passions, and messages.

 

  • All photos and video were shot by Prairieview residents. To learn more about Eric Genuis, check out this VIDEO

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