Concordia art therapy professor encourages neighbours to unite with welcoming art-making concept.
one modest storefront on a street in a working-class neighbourhood,
fill it with donations of paints, fabrics and other recyclables, throw
open the doors to the community to come make art and what do you get? A
community art hive. Or, in French, a ruche d'art
.La Ruche d'Art in St. Henri: bringing neighbours together. Photo by ARHphoto.
hives are the research focus of Janis Timm-Bottos, an art therapy
professor with Concordia's Department of Creative Arts Therapies. She's
been involved in developing these small, free community art studios for
almost 20 years, the two most recent being La Ruche d'Art Community
Studio and Science Shop in St. Henri last year and the Studio d'Art St.
Sulpice in Ahuntsic in March.
While open to all, this
arts-based social inclusion initiative especially welcomes those living
on society's margins. There are no instructors: participants learn from
and teach each other, and, in the process share ideas about local social
and cultural issues.
It's a concept Timm-Bottos began exploring
when she was a pediatric physical therapist in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Her work involved visiting families in their homes, many of which were
in high-risk neighbourhoods. A lifelong "art maker" herself, she noticed
that in homes that displayed children's artwork, the family seemed more
After earning a master's degree in art therapy, she
began collaborating with a healthcare organization that works with the
homeless in Albuquerque. She helped initiate a storefront studio space
where street artists could find refuge and solace in making art and
rebuild connection with the community.
"A diverse community
developed within this 'public home place' that crossed socioeconomic
divides, where people began to experience a deep sense of belonging and
purpose," she says. "This project demonstrated to me that the social
capital of the most vulnerable members of our society is incredible.
"The studio provided opportunities to share abilities and develop leadership skills while giving back to the community."Creating a national network
inspiration from several nationwide economic and social programs in her
native U.S. and weaving in her own perspective as an art therapist,
Timm-Bottos has worked with various community partners to create
different iterations of the art hive model. The St.-Henri studio marks
her first experience of partnering a university with private funders.
She teaches one of her university courses at La Ruche, several Concordia
students are engaged as either research assistants or volunteers, and
art therapy students are beginning to intern there.
you are connected to a university, you can bring in the energy of
students," Timm-Bottos says. "They spend most of their time in an
academic environment and the storefront studio provides an outlet and
access to learning directly from the community."
Timm-Bottos' work has spread. She regularly receives emails from
individuals and organizations across North America and Europe who want
to establish their own art hives. She'd like to develop a downloadable
online kit for them, but for the next few years, she's focused on
spreading the word in person across Canada.
For this initiative
to help plant the seeds of a national network of neighbourhood art
hives, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation has given a $300,000 grant
over the next three years.
"For these partners - the university,
the private funders and the community - to come together to create free
spaces for people to inquire about themselves, about their
neighbourhoods, about each other, is wonderful," Timm-Bottos says.
La Ruche d'Art Community Studio and Science Shop: art-makingWhen:
Fridays and Saturdays, 2 to 7 p.m.Where
: 4525 St-Jacques Street, Montreal
can get a taste of how an art hive works during Journées de la culture,
Sept. 28 to 30. La Ruche d'Art has organized two-hour mini art hives at
five libraries, at which its volunteers will guide participants in
making creative art pieces from recycled material. What:
Mini art hives during Journées de la cultureWhen
: Sept. 28 to 30, various timesWhere:
Five libraries in MontrealDetails
: Les Journées de la culture Related links:
Story by Liz Crompton. Photo of Janis Timm-Bottos by ARHphoto.
Posted on Sept. 25, 2012