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Riverside boys soaring to new heights

PHOTOGRAPHY, COMMUNITY SERVICE, AND FLYING ALL ROLLED INTO ONE

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

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

Xavier, 14 – Riverside Client reflects on experience:

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for sharing your time with us Susan!

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

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

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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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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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How strong are Popsicle sticks?

POPSICLE BRIDGES SPAN THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LEARNING AND FUN

Lakeshore kids were paired up to work together and construct a bridge out of 200 Popsicle sticks. They were graded on how much weight their bridge could hold, the aesthetics of the bridge, and the number of Popsicle sticks used. After the bridges were tested, the groups reflected on their experience and what they would have done differently if they did the project again.

The goals of this activity were to have the kids develop an understanding of planning, construction, problem solving, teamwork, and bridge structure.

Austin Elliott, Lakeshore Outdoor Experiential Educator

 

Northwest Passage teachers and staff are dedicated the education of our kids. They choose to use many different kinds of activities to teach many different subjects. Building bridges from Popsicle sticks teaches geometry and measurement through hands-on work instead of a text book, along with planning and construction. Working in teams teaches the kids best practices for relationship building through teamwork and problem solving. Reflections help the kids to think things through better in the future. Looking at the strength of objects is also a reminder of how strong they are.

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Past Resident interviewed on KARE11 News

SHE SPEAKS UP ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

After graduating from the Northwest Passage Prairieview program in November, Ndolo has been speaking up for things she believes in.

She has become a member of an organization, Silver Ribbon Campaign, at her school that brings awareness to mental health issues. As a part of this organization, she stood up in front of over 100 kids and spoke about “how to be an ally.” She even prepared a slide show including many pics from Northwest Passage – donkey, of course – and the one that is now on a wall!

During May, she was part of a group who organized a Racial Justice Day at her high school, in which she was interviewed by KARE11 News. Her dad was one of the guest speakers.

Carmen, Resident Parent – c/o Lisa Courchaine, Northwest Passage Mental Health Clinician

 

Northwest Passage is concerned about the kids after they leave and so stays in touch with them and their support team. It is great to hear that past residents, like Ndolo, are helping to raise mental health awareness. Not everyone is aware of the mental health challenges that others face on a daily basis, so it helps when people speak up.

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Mental Health Awareness Candlelight Vigil

PAST RESIDENT EMBRACES MENTAL HEALTH

Thursday, May 19, my colleague and I, in conjunction with a local youth voice group, organized a Mental Health Awareness candlelight vigil.  We walked with candles from our town to the adjacent town to show support for the multiple suicides that have occurred over the past few months in both school districts.

We stopped at the courthouse, placed our candles, and then opened the forum for people to share their struggles and triumphs with mental health challenges. Quite a few high school kids stepped up and spoke. It was very moving! And then…young Theo, my son and past resident of Northwest Passage, stepped up to the megaphone and told his tale. I couldn’t believe it! It’s the first time I have ever heard him talk about it all – his anger issues, depression, placements, and therapy! Wow.

He was like a little man up there…we were so proud. Then a few kids walked up to him and talked to him about their siblings who have the same issues and are in placements, and Theo listened and offered support and advice. He even got a bracelet from one of the adult onlookers that simply states “you are not alone” and he still has it on.

On our way to the walk, Theo asked me, what do you think it means to be a man? I told him, a real man takes ownership of his choices and his actions, whether they are good or bad.  He did that last night. He told me that he’s still working on it all, and I told him that he just took the BIGGEST step in recovery.

Gillian Turner, Past Resident Parent – c/o Anna Pearson, Riverside Case Manager/Aftercare Coordinator

Northwest Passage stays in touch with the kids and their families after they leave. We enjoy hearing about what they are doing and like to share these stories. It warms our hearts to hear that they are embracing who they are and what they have been through.

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We say see you soon to Andrew Walsh

KIDS’ PHOTOS FROM WEEK DISPLAYED NEXT TO ANDREW’S

Friday afternoon we celebrated the kids’ week with Andrew Walsh during an open house reception. Photos our youth artists had taken hung in the gallery, alongside some of Andrew’s. People gathered, snacked, and talked about the week’s events with the kids and Andrew. It was a farewell for now to Andrew, who says he will be returning to spend more time with us again soon.

Thank you Andrew for the great week! The kids are giving rave reviews about their week with you.

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Starting at dawn, whole day spent with Andrew Walsh

UNEXPECTED SURPRISES THROUGHOUT

Day 4 of Artist in Residence with Andrew Walsh began at 4:45 a.m. at the front door of Northwest Passage Prairieview. Our small group of early risers traveled a mile or so down the trail from Prairieview to the Trade River to photograph the sunrise. There was frost on the grass and leaves, and a chill in the air, but as the sun rose it brought with it some subtle warmth which was just enough for the trees and meadow to come alive. Countless songbirds were all around us as the mist came off the water. A flock of Canadian geese flew overhead and a bald eagle perched in an Elm Tree less than fifty yards from us. It was truly a magical morning, and one not soon to be forgotten.

 

As the day went on (and after we had some breakfast) the rest of the Prairieview photographers joined us and we ventured out to Straight Lake State Park where the wildlife we saw and heard was seemingly endless, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians were all reveling in the warm spring day- and we were ready with our cameras in hand.

 

We parted ways with Prairieview just before lunch and the afternoon brought us to Crex Meadows where we met up with Lakeshore and Riverside photographers. Riverside counselor, Justin Stariha, connected our group with the crew of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources firefighters who were beginning a prescribed burn of a portion of storm damaged forest. After they established safe boundaries for us and shared a little about wildfire ecology with our students we had a chance to photograph the ecology in action.

 

 

The day wrapped up with a lesson on aperture and depth of field from Andrew. Then we quickly realized that the day had gone by all too quickly and we were sad to see it end.

 

 

Many thanks to Andrew Walsh for volunteering his time and sharing his passion and expertise with our kids on this ‘day in the life of a professional photographer.’

Ian Karl, Experiential Programming Coordinator

Come to the artist reception tonight from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Gallery (1 mile south of Webster on Hwy 35) to hear the experiences right from the kids. See the photos the kids took during the week and see Andrew and his work. Join us in celebrating this week!

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