A relaxing and supportive drop-in art group, HeART & Soul invites people to express themselves through art.
Seated in a circle, visiting quietly with their neighbours or wrapped up in their own thoughts, 12 to 15 people sit sketching or painting while a quiet melody plays in the background.
Led by self-taught artist Diane Batley, HeART & Soul is about building community and encouraging healthy self-expression.
Batley says it is open to the public and welcomes all different levels of experience, ethnic groups and ages – her youngest participant was 2.5 years old.
The group shares ideas about painting and creativity and they learn from each other and encourage and support each other in their art, Batley said.
Batley started HeART & Soul Oct. 15, in partnership with the Literacy Task Force, which includes Northwest Community College, Houston Public Library, Houston Link to Learning, Friendship Centre, Houston Community Services, School District 54 and Northern Society for Domestic Peace.
They also gave her a $500 startup grant in October so she could get supplies and offer the program free, and now Dungate Community Forests has promised a $500 grant so she can continue to provide the free drop-in program in January, she said.
“Art is for everyone. Spontaneous process painting is about painting without judgement or criticism from yourself or others,” Batley said.
Her purpose is “bringing the community together through creativity… and also [using art] as a healing process.”
“It’s a time to create ‘a resting heart,’ by embarking on a journey of creative exploration. [A time for] awakening your soul to your authentic self,” she said.
Batley says she took a spontaneous process painting class, HeART Fit, in Kelowna and it opened her up to new textures and colours in her art.
“It was a healing process for me. It tapped into areas that were closed and opened me up to my full potential.
“[Art has] helped me get through a lot of anxiety, and I used it for calming and really tapping into my creative energy,” she said.
Those in the Kelowna class suggested she start up a similar program in Houston, and she thought it was a good idea.
“I wanted to offer something different to the community – an alternative to what traditionally the small community has offered,” she said.
Each week she emails an intention to the group, such as ‘through the eyes of a child,’ or ‘relaxation and meditation,’ and then she opens each session with a short discussion about the intention “to help you turn inward for creative expression.”
After that, she teaches an art technique, such as 3-D art using tissue paper or gels, techniques for painting on canvas or on paper, or how to do zen diagrams.
Then participants are free to try the technique or simply do their own art or painting for up to three hours.
Thirteen-year-old participant Jeremiah says he steps out of his school schedule to be part of the group for an hour.
“I come here so that I can get away from everything else… I just let my feelings go onto the paper when I draw,” he said.
“I feel more relaxed and calm [after the art group].”
Another participant who has been coming for four weeks from Smithers, says the group gives her a time to reflect on what she’s going through.
“It’s an outlet – a therapeutic outlet… rarely do I just sit for three hours and do this type of stuff,” she said.
“It’s always been a way of coping for me, in high school even,” she said.
HeART & Soul runs at the Northwest Community College 9:30 to 12:30 a.m. every Tuesday until Dec.17, and will startup again in January. For more information contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org or NWCC at 250-845-7266.