Last summer, as some of you might remember (hard to believe it’s been a whole year!), the Hong Fook Mental Health Association and I facilitated ‘1000 Candles‘ – a set of 2, 6-week workshops in which client artists told their stories of recovery from mental illness through painting. The project received a fantastic response from participants, and with funding assistance from the Ontario Arts Council, we were able to create a video and catalogue for this experience which also helped get the word out about our developing arts program to broader audiences as well.
We were unable to secure similar funding this year, so when Hong Fook declared their interest to proceed with a new and yet more ambitious project regardless, I can only say I was deeply impressed. The ideas and impetus behind this particular project also came from the HF side of things – my preferred way of working, since no one knows clients and their needs better (aside from the clients, of course!) than those closest to them.
‘ Yin & Yang: Nurturing Positive Relationships Through Intergenerational Arts Co-Creation‘ is the project’s full descriptive title, but we’ve been calling it ‘Yin & Yang‘. (You can guess why!) Most are familiar with the very famous symbol, representing two apparent opposites which exist harmoniously together within an infinite circle. The Tai Chi tradition from which the symbol derives divides all the elements of the world up into yin and yang, variously: white and black, hot and cold, happy and sad….and on and on.
In addition to the widespread cultural resonance both Yin Yang and Tai Chi philosophy have for a wide diversity of Asian groups, the idea of “opposites” blending together in seamless unity reflects the project’s key intent: to stimulate communication and collaboration between members of the different generations attending HF’s youth and adult self-help programs. Through this unique opportunity, both groups stand to gain from the other’s knowledge, skills, and resiliency – and perhaps, even develop a few unexpected friendships along the way.
In the fall, after its 10-session run, works from Yin & Yang will be exhibited at Hong Fook’s Annual General Meeting, and at the Bluffs Gallery – a space generously donated by our new friends at Scarborough Arts!
I’m very happy to be working once again with Senior Mental Health Worker Annie Tse, my close associate and great pal, and also Kennes Lin, Youth Outreach Worker, who invited me to the Choices Youth program last year to deliver the visual component of the multi-arts Umbrella Project, where I met around half of the participants for our current workshop. We’ve also got some fantastic summer students with us: Michelle Wan is an art therapy student from my alma mater, the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. She and Abby Ho, Veronica To, and Jasmine Choi, make us a monster team of 7! There’s a lot to plan, and it’s been a great experience putting our heads together every week.