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Aspiring artists find unexpected healing in workshops

A series of workshops offered by a local arts collective has provided aspiring Vancouver artists with an outlet for dealing with…

By Joshua Robinson , in Life , on December 14, 2014

Featured Image Aaron Rice
Terry Haines’ radiation mask that Aaron Rice incorporated in his new media projection piece, ‘Two’

A series of workshops offered by a local arts collective has provided aspiring Vancouver artists with an outlet for dealing with grief.

The aspiring artists, dealing with diagnoses of cancer in their lives, worked with the LocoMoto Art Collective at a time in their lives when dealing with pain was a challenge.

For the past 18 months, the LocoMoto Art Collective, comprised of new media artists, has been working out of the West Point Grey Community Center as part of an artist residency through the Vancouver Park Board’s artist studio residency program.

In exchange for free studio spaceLocoMoto was required to host arts-based workshops.

“The purpose of these workshops was to engage people in a way that helps them to take a moment for themselves in the world that is around us,” said Laura Lee Coles, the lead artist facilitator.

But these workshops provided much more than LocoMoto had anticipated.

Workshops about transformation, not therapy

Jill Ineson joined the program in May of this year after being diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Jill IN text Photo
On November 19, Ineson was told that her surgery had been successful and that her cancer had not spread

“After the diagnosis and the surgery, I was looking for other modes of healing. That was what I was wanting to find.”

This program was not set up as art therapy. It was offered as a way to introduce people to art and nature.

Coles worked closely with Ineson. They took walks through the forest and the two gathered sticks, acorn cups, and other objects. Ineson incorporated the pieces into collages.

Ineson says the experience helped her to regain the self-confidence she lost after her diagnosis.

“I’m very excited about having rekindled the inner artist. It just really helped me to at the time come to terms with the possibility of not surviving,” she said.

Coles saw Ineson beccme stronger during the process. “She realized that a creative thought about what is wrong or sad or scary can lead to a more healthy state of mind, something that sitting around wondering ‘What is going to happen to me?’ just doesn’t do,” she said.

Art as healing

The workshops also provided Aaron Rice with an opportunity to work through the loss of his partner.

Rice was grieving after artist, Terry Haines, died of cancer in March 2012. Haines had worked with LocoMoto, and members of the collective reached out to Rice.

Rice developed Two, a six minute-long projection piece created as a tribute to Haines’ life, with the help and encouragement of LocoMoto.

“It was a piece for me to just sit with his passing, his memory, and letting it flow through my body because I hadn’t really expressed it outwardly,” said Rice, who credits Haines’ past work with influencing how he now creates art.

Listen: 
Rice speaks of his memory of Terry Haines (1’15”)

[audio https://thethunderbird.ca/files/2014/11/ARTHUNDERBIRD.mp3]

“The way I’ve observed it, [Aaron] was grieving and he just wanted an outlet that was going to help him have a positive, creative, spiritual way of overcoming his grief,” said Coles who, along with fellow Loco Moto member Sarah Shamash, supported Aaron with his project.

Moving Forward

“What I’ve seen in both of these individuals is that they’ve taken responsibility for themselves and have used their interests and creativity to heal,” said Coles.

“When there’s confusion in one’s life, you need to have some sort of outlet and art is therapeutic because you have to project outside of yourself at your surroundings in a new way.”

There are 16 artists in Loco Moto collective. Their residency at West Point Grey Community Center ends in the new year and they plan to continue the workshops elsewhere.