This is a great City of Calgary Public Art project that was initiated and is being led by Dick Averns. I am honoured to be part of it, in my dual roles as artist and social worker. Please do read this article if you'd like to learn more about it:

Recognition…Validation…Reassurance…Art + Mental Wellness

View From the Inside-WP Puppet Theatre

Courage Journey

These workshops encouraged participants to create body-puppet masks through which they could express their outer and inner selves, their connections to community and memory, and identity through theatrical monologue. I was lucky enough to be part of three of these workshops, encompassing both my roles, as an artist and a mental health support.

WP Puppet Theatre is a vibrant and community-focused organization. See more about them here:


















The eye of the beholder

Studio C artists take up cameras, create art

Calgary Herald

24 Jul 2008


                                                           Studio C instructor Jeff Mathis and artist Jody St. Onge show off her scrapbook.

From paintings, watercolours, illustrations, comic book drawings to puppet making, Studio C has been producing inspired art out of the lower level of Art Central.

Their artists, some who sell enough art to be a regular supplemental income, have developmental or mental disabilities but have the moxie to overcome their hurdles to create art.

“I think being in Art Central, being in this venue, working along with professional and practicing artists is really validating instead of the boonies and not having a connection . . . selling your work is a huge accomplishment,” said Alexi Davis, manager of disability services with Prospect Human Services Society.

Prospect is an organization working with youth at risk and individuals with mental disability to help connect them with the community and jobs.

Funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and Calgary Arts Development, Davis and the staff at Studio C run 12-week sessions of classes and until July 31, their Photo ‘Graphic’ Arts exhibit adorns the walls of their space.

“It was curated by 10 practising photographers who were partnered with 10 aspiring photographers with disabilities. Together they learned different processes and learned from each other.”

Davis is pleasantly surprised at the results of the exhibit that will see Studio C self-publish a book documenting what they learned from each other.

“Very initially, they were thinking they were going to mentor an aspiring photographer. When they communicated after the fact and spoke to the public and people coming through about the impact they had personally, it was something they didn’t expect,” said Davis.

“They were surprised at the free creativity that comes from aspiring photographers without conceptions about how it’s going to be received.”

Jody St. Onge has been painting since 2003 and has enough of a following that Studio C can sell one of her pieces immediately after she is finished.

Colourful shapes and abstract visuals pepper her canvasses with each piece taking typically taking her several weeks to produce. They sell for up to $400. One of her clients includes Starbucks ,where she works.

She is thrilled to see her work being well-received but is just happy to be able to paint in an environment that is nurturing and positive.

“I just like it. It’s good,” she said with a giggle.

One of her instructors, Jeff Mathis, says Studio C was born out of the words community and collaboration.

“They’re such a dynamic group to work with. Mostly, I’m helping artists with technical difficulties who have ideas but don’t know how to approach it,” said Mathis who developed a new media painting class for Studio C but has also learned some valuable lessons from his clients.

“It’s interesting in that if I’m painting something like an apple, I can outthink myself sometimes, but they can just do it. Really, it’s just the act of doing it.”


Photo Graphic Arts - Studio C

This was another collaborative project that involved mentoring, and learning from, aspiring photographers with mental health or developmental disability challenges. It was really fun, and we even had a beautiful book produced featuring the work of our participants.

Studio C does absolutely amazing work in our arts community! Check them out here: