Arts and Culture Community Student Life

Plants, paint and friendly faces at Concordia’s greenhouse

FASA and CUPA teamed up to host an art therapy event for students to unwind during midterms season.

There were almost as many people as there were plants in Concordia’s greenhouse on Thursday, Oct. 19. Starting at around 5:30 p.m. in the evening, the event saw students  coming to the 13th floor of the Hall building to paint, eat snacks, socialize, and relax—a much needed break during midterm season. There were many more participants than expected, and the organizers had to run to the dollar store after half an hour to buy more art supplies!

Among the greenery, students were sitting alone or in groups, painting quietly or chatting with friends, listening to music or to their own thoughts. Though the place was packed, the ambiance was relaxing and voices were quiet. The lights from the city at night were shining through the greenhouse’s glass—the location was ideal to inspire students and help them unwind. 

The event was  a collaboration between Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA), Concordia Undergraduate Psychology Association (CUPA), and inARTE Journal. The inARTE Journal,  an initiative of Concordia’s arts education students, had organized a student mixer and art-making event in the greenhouse in November 2022. This year, Adey Singer, FASA’s finance coordinator, brought a reiteration of it, with the goal of  bringing  together fine arts and psychology students. 

Singer was inspired by her friends in the psychology program who love arts, but don’t have many opportunities to participate in artistic events on campus. She wanted this to be an occasion for students of all departments to express their creativity and meet people from other programs. “It’s a social event where people can gather, meet each other, make social connections, make art together, and relax,” explained Singer. 

Emily Chodat, president of CUPA, also attended and helped organize the event. “We believe that psychology and creative arts are super interconnected,” she said. “Being able to express artistically how you’re feeling can be really relieving on your mind.” 

Aimée Lebeau from inARTE Journal was there as well to “offer guidance and mediate the event,” as was stated on FASA’s Instagram page. 

Singer, Chodat and Lebeau were pleased with the turnout and called the evening “a great success.” The event might be a tradition in the making—considering how popular this year’s edition was, it is possible that those who  didn’t get the chance to drop by on Oct. 19 will get another chance next year.


Art Therapy: one of the many roles traditional art plays in the digital era

Concordia Arts Hive conjures the psychological and spiritual aspect of arts

The history of art therapy goes back to around the 1700s, when art was being used in various modes of psychological treatment. According to Lois Woolf, founder of the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute, art therapy was first explored in Europe and North America in the 1940s.

The study of this subject and human psychology was explored in increasing depth for years. Unlike art creation, art therapy focuses on the process of art rather than the result.

The Centre for the Arts in Human Development at Concordia University provides creative art therapy for people with disabilities and special needs, as well as for people with anxiety and depression. Senior associate director Lenore Vosberg says that instead of teaching art skills,  the centre helps people express themselves through different art forms.

“It’s a very supportive place. People get a lot of good and positive feedback for everything they do here,” Vosberg said. The centre works to build participants’ self-esteem and self confidence, as well as build relationships and trust through the process of art creation.

As art is a genre of work that embraces different ideologies, art therapy is useful for all kinds of people. It’s an alternative to traditional therapy for people who find it easier to express themselves through an art form rather than speaking to a therapist. 

The Concordia Art Hive is a public practice art therapy space, located on the first floor of the ER building downtown and on the fourth floor of the central building at Loyola in the G-Lounge. The spaces are accessible to anyone who wishes to achieve self-expression through art. Students sit around a table to communicate with each other while creating their crafts. 

Rachel Chainey is an art therapist who coordinates the Art Hive HQ located at Concordia’s downtown campus. She says that one of their challenges is getting people to understand what art therapy is.

“Some people would be intimidated by arts because they think they should be good,” Chainey said. “[But you approach] it from an angle of play. It’s not a performance, or result, but more of a process.”

There are more than 30 art hives in Montreal. Traditional arts are spreading internationally into many other fields, like technology, creating endless possibilities for artists everywhere. 

Art education student Kaida Kobylka stopped by the Art Hive with the goal of observing art studios in a public space. She explained the process of an AI project that she had explored, in which she had to put the artistic idea first to let it create. “AI can learn and create, but it can’t just make something out of nothing yet,” said Kobylka. “I have to put the artistic thoughts into the input, it isn’t just replacing an artistic mind.”

“Everybody has the crisis when they are an artist, like does what I made matter or would painting exist in the future,” Kobylka said, “but the answer is yes, the paintings are still evolving and relevant.” 

Indeed, art has been always seen as a form of self-expression and materialized thoughts throughout the existence of humankind, and this is how traditional art participates in society in a psychological and spiritual way. 


Art therapy as a means to cope with grief

Concordia’s Iranian community shows us how art-making can help heal past trauma

Whether it’s venting, crying or spending time with your loved ones, grief differs from person to person. Poetry, storytelling and painting are forms of art therapy healing that took place on Jan. 16 at Concordia’s Art Hive event in efforts to heal together rather than apart.

In light of the recent plane crash that occurred in Iran, Concordia is offering support resources for students that have been affected by the tragedy. Programs like Concordia’s Art Hive, located at the Sir George Williams Campus, are there for students who feel mournful and need a creative outlet.

Hanieh Tohidi, a Creative Art Therapy graduate student at Concordia, created the Persian Art Hive event out of a necessity to do so for her fellow Iranians. 

“I felt a lot of sadness and grief coming from Iranian people and felt that I needed to start this event,” she said. After receiving an award provided by the J.A. De Sève Foundation to finance the Art Hive at Concordia’s downtown campus, Tohidi was finally able to make her vision a reality.

The idea started a year ago when sanctions began in Iran and tensions started rising. “The plan was to start the Art Hive much later, but unfortunately this tragedy happened,” she said. “We started the hive under pressure, knowing that the community would need more support; especially students starting their semester.”

Najmeh Khalili-Mahani, a scientist at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre and affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as Design and Computation Arts, joined the effort to create the downtown Art Hive. She felt a lack of culturally-specific support for Iranian students. “I thought the magnitude of the event is something that would not be appreciated unless somebody understood the cultural and political context from which we had fled to Canada,” she said.

Art therapy allows people to express their emotions and complex feelings without having to verbalize them. “It is very hard to communicate decades of trauma happening to us to someone who may not necessarily know the background of it,” Tohidi said. “We would have to explain to psychotherapists or councillors why we are getting triggered by specific events.”

People tend to respond to the sense of community that is formed through art and simply being together, according to Tohidi. Since language may not be everyone’s favourite means of self-expression, art therapy introduces a number of creative outlets to allow for free art-making such as music therapy and drama therapy.

Art therapy is highly regarded as a method of coping with bottled-up emotions. Everyone is welcome to let their emotions come together to create a piece of art.

According to Tohidi, the practice of art therapy predates traditional psychotherapy by several thousands of years. Before there was language, there was art. “People would paint on the walls of caves to express their fear of facing hatred from the unknown,” said Tohidi. “That was the sort of therapy that they resorted to. Art was there to allow them to communicate.”

A 2015 scientific study suggests that art therapy can be beneficial in treating issues such as depression, anxiety, low mood, inability to cope, low-self esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias.

Coping with grief through art, poetry and storytelling is very much a part of Iranian culture. “The idea of healing together comes from the psychology of liberation, which is what art hive is based on,” said Tohidi.

“The idea of artist doesn’t exist in art therapy,” she said. “We are all artists.”

The concept of art therapy gives weight to the personal process of artistic creation. Rather than being a result-driven artistic endeavour, Tohidi wants people engaging in art therapy to forget about the outcome of their art. “Art therapy is a re-learning of being in the present moment and observing what we are doing and how we interact with people,” she said.

Most importantly, the Art Hive is a safe space. “If we are non-judgmental, we can have conversations about our art and our inside world,” Tohidi said.

As beneficial as art therapy may be, Tohidi points out that it is hard to come by nowadays due to financial limitations. “The public population can’t benefit from art therapy as they would psychotherapy in public service because insurance may not cover it,” she said. More often than not, art therapists are hired through extra funding that is raised through fundraising or donations.

The Art Hive (SGW campus) continues to be available to the Concordia community, as well as outsiders. For information about the scheduling of Art Hive events, please check the Concordia Art Hive and Montreal Art Hive Facebook page.






Photo courtesy of Gabriele Zambito and Hanieh Tohidi.


Awakening to Art: The healing power of creation

 Clients of Les Impatients find solace through artistic expression

Art therapy is an approach that uses visual arts such as painting, drawing, collage and sculpture, as well as other art mediums, to allow participants to express emotions, deal with past trauma, and use art as a means of communication.

Since 2015, Les Impatients, an organization that offers creative art therapy workshops to clients with mental health struggles, has partnered with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) to exhibit the work of these individuals. Awakening to Art is currently being featured in the museum’s education wing, showcasing the talents and healing journeys of these participants.

Using the techniques and healing modalities of art therapy, participants have chosen the themes of identity and self-empowerment for this year’s exhibition. Volunteers François Martin and Louise Livernoche, as well as the director of Espace Création, Dominique Payette, came together alongside the participants from two Integrated Health and Social Services Centres (CISSS) in Montérégie to create this powerful display.

As you enter the room, to the right, viewers are welcomed with a wall of portraits depicted in white and red paint on black foam core. There is a beautiful cohesion among the pieces hung side-by-side, yet each work was so remarkably individual. The visual as a whole is striking and bold, and the inherent narrative of emotion radiates from each unique piece.

Wire sculptures hung from the ceiling and rested on small white shelves. Bright white lights shone onto the installation, creating shadows from the sculptures on the wall—this gave the illusion of two works of art within the same one. The sculptures themselves, alongside the shadows, give the impression of the installation coming to life. Together, the installation was a sight that would take any art enthusiast’s breath away. Every time you look at the installation again, you see a different dimension to the work.

Fabric arts were also amongst the pieces in the collection. Quilting and beadwork hung on the walls and colourful rows. Included in the collection of artworks were clay and textile pieces inspired by the museum’s current exhibition, Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives.

Make sure you take the time to go to J.A. DeSève Gallery, Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, level S1, the next time you go the MMFA to check out Awakening to Art, on until March 8.



Photos by Britanny Clarke.


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Expressing trauma through creation, of any form, is healing – How Karina Lafayette is writing and directing her way through trauma. 

Inspired by classics like Charlie Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick, Karina Lafayette has been chasing her dreams of filmmaking since she was a teenager. Following her studies at Dawson College, Lafayette studied in Concordia’s film department until 2015, when she was forced to work full-time, dropping out for personal reasons.

She had the opportunity to create several short films, all published on her Youtube channel, Carus Productions. Among those are a series of vlogs and video diaries, tutorials, and responses to events taking place in popular culture, including a short romantic-comedy, titled A Good Man (2014) and experimental short, Give Me a Smile (2017.)

After creating a documentary about the 2012 student strikes in Quebec, Lafayette made the decision to move to Toronto. There, she began doing short term work in the industry, serving popcorn at film festivals and freelancing on various sets, where she met her now ex-husband.

It was during this time that Lafayette began writing poetry, which would eventually become her first book, Queen of Hearts. She wrote in order to process her experiences. Her relationship, once idealized, was beginning to become increasingly toxic.

Her work speaks to the emotional abuse she experienced while juggling her hopes and dreams for her career, and her relationship. 

About a year after the couple separated, Lafayette lost everything, turning to the streets and shelters with her dog.

Following Queen of Hearts, Lafayette began working on a second project to continue documenting her story. Persephone Rises, available Oct. 16, is a first-hand account of empowerment and perseverance. The name draws from the Greek myth of Persephone, the goddess of vegetation, and Hades’ wife. Persephone’s story is one of unwitting love. Hades, ruler of the underworld, set his sights on her, keeping her as his lover and prisoner in the dark depths. To keep her there, Hades feeds Persephone pomegranate seeds, binding her to him.

It was in this story that Lafayette found comfort, a character that she could relate to. Expressing trauma through creation, of any form, is healing. An article written by artist Terry Sullivan in The New York Times elaborates on four steps to use art to process trauma. Choose a medium you are comfortable with and work when you feel relaxed, don’t be hard on yourself, date and document your work to keep track of your progress and finally, be selective of who you show your work to.

If you are experiencing trauma you would like to express in a safe space, visit the pop-up zen den in the Counselling and Psychological Services room 300-22, Guy-De Maisonneuve building (1550 De Maisonneuve W.)


Fighting homelessness with art

The St-James Drop-In centre takes everything into consideration

While a blanket of fresh November snow falls on Montreal, the St-James Drop-in Centre is warm with laughter. The front room buzzes with activity, and dishes clink together as members serve lunch. In the corner of the dining area is a piano painted in bright colors. In the kitchen, crates of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are spread out across the counters and in stacks on the floor. Downstairs in the art studio, drawings and paintings hang on the walls, unfinished projects sit on easels and shelves are lined with supplies.

St-James’s members have painted bright portraits on the piano in the centre’s dining room.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

St-James is a community centre located in the Gay Village, about a block up from Ste-Catherine St. It’s open five days a week and serves as a space for marginalized people. Its members are predominately homeless or struggling with mental illness; as St-James intervention worker Lisa Zimanyi pointed out, the two often go hand in hand.

“We are much smaller than most centres, and the idea there is to make people feel more at home,” Zimanyi said. With just three rooms, the space is certainly cozy. “People who struggle with anxiety or different types of mental illness don’t always feel safe in larger places, so we are kind of an alternative resource for them.”

In addition to offering counselling, crisis intervention or just a conversation over a cup of coffee, the centre hosts poetry, music and art workshops. The centre’s team also hosts several art events in the community, including art exhibitions to showcase the pieces that members make. Although the centre has exhibited work at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the past, Zimanyi said it’s the smaller vernissages held throughout the year that allow members to connect with the community.

According to Zimanyi, the staff at St-James works hard to get to know members on a personal level. Having worked full-time at the centre for five years, Zimanyi said she has had the chance to “accompany them through all different aspects of their life.” Although the centre provides members with a roof, a shower and hot meals, the staff’s focus isn’t just on survival. “We do meet people’s physical needs, but at the same time, we’re trying to build relationships with people,” Zimanyi said.

Members are also encouraged to volunteer and help out at the centre as much as they can. “I actually rely on the members to help me out with running the place on a day-to-day basis,” Zimanyi said. “The members feel at home, and we get to know each other in a more informal context. It’s more like a family.”

The way the centre hums with jokes, and hearing members greet each other when they walk in, it is clear St-James has created a unique atmosphere—one that feels like home.

Concerned with more than basic necessities, the St-James Drop-in Centre and art studio serves as a safe space for marginalized people.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Lysanne Picard is the creative arts program coordinator at St-James and oversees the Concordia art education students who intern at the centre. A Concordia alumna herself, Picard said the students are in charge of running their own workshops with the members and she encourages the students to think outside of the box. “The student workshops really add some diversity and excitement.” This year’s interns, Concordia students Stephanie Talisse and Jude Ibrahim, have done exactly that. With Talisse, members assembled and drew still-life scenes of the things they kept in their pockets. In another activity, Ibrahim had members make prints on postcards, focusing on social change and the message they want to send to the world.

“It’s really neat to see the members meet other artists and experience that artist-to-artist connection they might not get otherwise,” Picard said.

Even after members have gained some stability, they are still welcome to spend time at the centre, and many do. Paul Hicks, a long-time member who also works at the centre, joined the community in the 80s, when the centre first opened. Hicks often participates in the art workshops offered at the centre, but said he particularly enjoys working with the interns.

“I really like when the students come in and do lessons,” Hicks said. Behind him, one of his recent paintings, an intricate and colourful scene of a gondola in the canals of Venice, was hung up to dry.

A few of Hicks’s pieces, along with those of other members, will be available to purchase at the centre’s annual art sale fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. All profits will go towards supporting the centre. Anyone searching for a unique Christmas gift or simply looking to support the centre can stop by 1442 Panet St. to shop and chat with the artists. The centre also accepts donations year-round.


The Art Hive is a safe space for all

The Art Hive is dedicated to students’ creative expression, without judgement

Creation, self-care, and skill-sharing—Concordia’s Art Hive provides a serene environment where everyone can create. Run by the school’s creative art therapy students, this space provides students and the university’s community with a place to relax, decompress and work with a variety of creative materials. The Art Hive works to provide an inclusive space for the community, with the intention to connect, share skills and create.

There are a variety of Art Hives located across Montreal, which provide community connection and artistic resources to varied neighbourhoods throughout the city. Concordia’s very own Hive is free, open to all, and wheelchair accessible. It also works with the university’s Centre For Creative Reuse (CUCCR) to provide recycled and reused materials, creating a sustainable foundation for art-making.

This space is dedicated to students’ creative expression, without judgement, whether they have previous experience with the arts or not. Students use it for self care in periods of academic stress, to work on creative school or community projects, or to meet other people from diverse backgrounds around a constructive activity.” – Rachel Chainey, Art Hive Network national coordinator.

Its location within a university arguably heightens the significance and value of the Art Hive’s mandates and resources. In an academic environment that generates a lot of stress, intensity and focus on productivity, the Art Hive provides a space for people to remove themselves from that environment and take time to relax, be creative and work without an agenda or a deadline.

The Art Hive is for people of all disciplines, whether fine arts or any other department of study. Artistic spaces can often be intimidating and may appear or act as an exclusive environment, deterring some from becoming involved. The Art Hive is a resource specifically for the community, and its mandates work to make sure it is inclusive, accessible and comfortable for all.

For those who are experienced in fine arts, the Art Hive provides a more relaxed space to create and practice a craft, contrasting with the typical academic format of deadlines, critiques and specific criteria. Instead, students can create without these pressures and perhaps find further inspiration for their other work. In studying fine arts and creating work exclusively for a curriculum to be graded, the magic and joy in art can be lost, to a certain extent. By providing an environment specifically for the wellbeing of the community, with no structure or need for a specific finished product, fine arts students can once again find their passion and inspiration, or just create artwork in a space focused on providing peacefulness and freedom for all.

With ties to art therapy, the Art Hive uses creation as a therapeutic practice. Along with its regular scheduling and space, the Art Hive also offers a Pop Up Art Hive at the Zen Den in the university’s Counselling and Psychological Services department space. The space works to give visitors a calm, comfortable environment to decompress and practice mindfulness, while also having support and staff on-hand for those who are struggling or simply need some support.
The mental wellness aspect of the Art Hive is another major component of the organization and what it can provide to the community. As students, mental health—which can be affected by stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed—can be a prominent concern. It’s not always easy or accessible for students to reach out or receive help for these concerns. It is also often difficult to acknowledge the need for extra support. This space has direct ties to therapeutic practices and removes some of the potentially daunting aspects of reaching out for help, while still working to provide a form of relief or aid through its format. The accessibility of the Hive comes into play here-everyone is welcome.

The Art Hive is also just an enjoyable place to be. While there plenty of benefits tied to wellbeing, mental health and student life, the space also provides an environment to create, experiment and connect with others. With its inclusivity, accessibility and flexibility, the Art Hive truly provides a great space for the community. It can be a wonderful resource for students, addressing and acknowledging a variety of needs and working to provide a comfortable space for all.

The Art Hive is open on Mondays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the 5th floor of the EV building. The Pop Up Art Hive at the Zen Den is open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every other Tuesday.

Happening in and around the White Cube this week

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…


Le pop up galerie + vernissage and launch party

New to Montreal’s art scene, Le pop up galerie + aims to showcase and help promote the work of local emerging artists. Open from Fridays to Sundays, their first exhibition includes work from seven abstract painters. Le pop up galerie + is also available for short-term rentals and one-night events, including pop-up shops and exhibitions.

When: Oct. 12, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: 3915 St-Denis St.
Admission is free.

Canadian Art Therapy Association Conference

Featuring over 70 workshops by Canadian and international presenters, this year’s art therapy conference revolves around “mending what is broken.” The conference will kick off with a vernissage for The Nature of Art Therapy on Friday, Oct. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the St-Henri Art Hive (4525 St-Jacques St.). Indigenous art, heuristic art, phototherapy and basket weaving are among the many workshops and panels scheduled throughout the weekend. For more information and to register, visit

When: Oct. 12 to Oct. 14
Where: Various locations on and off campus
Breathing Soliloquy

Concordia theatre and set design graduate Delia Yuan is exhibiting detailed cut-paper and mixed-media portraits and landscapes which explore rays of light within devastation, suffering and hopelessness.

When: Now until Oct. 29.
Where: Georges-Vanier Cultural Centre,
2450 Workman St.
Admission is free.

The french verb plier refers to the action of folding an object; it is also the name of a classical dance movement. The PLI.É Project showcases 14 dancers from six renowned international dance companies wearing hand-folded paper dresses. Paper artist Pauline Loctin, also known as Miss Cloudy, and classical ballet dancer Melika Dez join forces to exhibit more than 50 photographs and paper creations from this series.

When: Now until Nov. 4
Where: Ausgang Plaza, 6524 St-Hubert St.
Admission is free.

Sometimes there are no words, sometimes there is only art

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Before speech, humans communicated through symbols, drawings, and their body movements.

However in this age of words, there is still a lot that can be gained from our previous methods of communicating.

Drawing, using our bodies and making sounds are tools that are useful in expressing what we can’t or don’t know how to express verbally.

These tools are especially useful in therapeutic settings and are employed by creative arts therapists to help patients express their needs, resolve issues or come to terms with trauma.

Therapists can use a number of different media in their sessions, including art, music, drama, and dance. In the case of art therapy, the client is invited to create something in front of the therapist. The therapist and client will look over the image together and reflect on what they have created.

As an image speaks louder than words, it is sometimes easier for people to express their inner world through art. The art created by the client is an opening for dialogue and in some cases, such as traumatic experiences, the issue can be worked out through symbolically using what the client has drawn or painted.

“I’m really into abstract impressionist [art], so I just take the paints and try to blend all the different colors and after I’m done doing that [my therapist] looks at my artwork and says, Rachel* is this what you’re feeling inside?” says Rachel, an art therapy client at CSSS Cavendish.

There is no dictionary of symbols in art therapy, what a person draws is symbolically significant to them and therefore only has meaning in relation to that particular individual.

“The art is a way for them to symbolically explore their issues. After that, we look at the images and see if we can find a solution,” explains Julia L. Olivier, art therapist and president of Expression LaSalle.

Most of the people who take part in art therapy at Expression Lasalle are people who have had to deal with trauma and things that they are ashamed to talk about. It is much easier for them to express it through art or by acting it out with theatre.

“At first, patients will come in contact with a lot of emotions, like anxiety, but after awhile they will feel joy, and remember what is was like to do art when they were children,” says Sarah Brodie, an art therapist at the Montreal Therapy Centre. “You can make links between the shapes on the page and your inner world…it all leads to who we are and where we want to be.”

Sometimes, art therapy can help people discover passions they never would have discovered ordinarily. For example, Olivier had a patient who was a single mother of three children and was dealing with the fact that they were growing up. She had to find out who she was as a person, as an adult without children. Her artwork was filled with jewelry, so Olivier suggested that she should try taking a jewelry-making class.

With drama therapy, patients must act and watch others act in order to solve their problems. This technique, like art therapy, is great for people who have suffered traumas, as well as people who have trouble understanding the problems they are living with; they can understand it better by seeing other people act it out, or by acting it out themselves.

“With drama therapy, you can act out memories or fantasies, and this helps you better understand them,” says Brodie.

Patients will often set goals for themselves on their first session. This becomes the theme that they will explore during their individual or group sessions.

“We try to work on a series of goals that we need to overcome in three years time. So I have three goals that I need to overcome in the next three years. So every week we try to work towards that,” says Rachel. “One of my goals is to be more comfortable in my own skin, another one is to stop being overly stressed.”

According the Canadian Association for Music Therapy: “Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.”

Music therapists work mostly with children with special needs or developmental disabilities, hospitals’ patients, and elderly populations. They also work with people who are in comas, or premature babies.

“We once had a little boy who spoke in gibberish. With music therapy he was able to make words by following the rhythm, he started saying short sentences, to say his name,” explains Guylaine Vaillancourt, assistant professor of music therapy at Concordia. Music therapy allowed the little boy to make friends, and Vaillancourt even noticed a change in the boy’s mother, who seemed to realize that her boy was smart.

Vaillancourt told another story of a patient in palliative care who was very tense and who was dealing with a lot of pain. She also had trouble talking about her disease. Vaillancourt played songs that she chose on the piano, songs that meant a lot to her. With the use of instruments and song, the patient became much calmer, and even felt less pain and slept more soundly.

With premature babies, music therapists use techniques like recording the mother’s voice and playing it to the baby. They may also record the mother’s heartbeat and play soft, soothing music for the baby. By playing these sounds, the baby is helped to feel more secure while in the incubator, and this helps the baby gain weight much faster, according to Vaillancourt.

Words are a difficult mode of communication, we can’t always find the right ones to express how we’re feeling, but with the tools used in creative arts therapies there is another avenue to which we can turn.

*The name has been changed due to the personal nature of the topic.

Expression Lasalle is located at 405 Terrasse Newman. The CSSS is part of the CLSC’s network of mental health services, for more information visit


The view from up close

Documentaries are generally about reducing distances between the viewer and subject(s).
A well-made doc will be able to place a complete neophyte in the world of the film, and make them understand it.
Biographical documentaries—whether they be about one or many—operate in a similar way, but differ in that they don’t require an explanation of setting; the world is understood, but the subject is not. These films are inherently mirror-like: the narrowed distance between the viewer and subject motivates reflection in the viewer. The tricky part, however, is to make the subject easy to relate to without simplifying or objectifying them. This is doubly difficult when dealing with more marginal groups.
How Does It Feel, a National Film Board-backed documentary written and directed by Lawrence Jackman, opens bluntly. Kazumi Tsuruoka, who suffers from cerebral palsy, explains his feelings to the camera. The opening is the sole scene without subtitles, and CP makes his words all but indecipherable. With subtitles—or, I suspect, with listening practice—Tsuruoka is pointed and eloquent, something the film makes clear in its second scene.
This opening is an excellent bit of instructive contrast: any assumptions an audience may have about the lucidity of this man are teased out by the opening, before the film makes it clear that Tsuruoka’s limitations are purely physical. Tsuruoka isn’t well-spoken despite his condition; his physicality has little bearing on the quality of his thought.
Tsuruoka isn’t a documentary subject simply because of his condition. It’s his one-man show that makes him particularly noteworthy. In it, he sings a variety of jazz and blues standards, as well as some ballads, many of which are elevated to an entirely different level of meaningfulness by the realities of his life. Thus, “outside, I’m masquerading / Inside, my hope is fading / Just a clown / Oh yeah since you put me down / My smile is my make-up I wear,” is no longer just a breakup song, it’s a way to exercise a much deeper pain.
This type of art therapy is quickly gaining a strong reputation for the results it can yield, not just as an emotional output but as a confidence-building and prejudice-breaking experience.
It’s the kind of thing Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development offers, as documented in Ryan Mullins’ and Omar Majeed’s The Frog Princes.
In this self-narrated piece, we’re introduced to a production of The Frog and the Princess: A Musical Ecodrama acted out by adults with developmental delays, some physical, some mental. The play becomes an incredibly stressful experience for some of the players. While others find it easier, all seem to get a serious boost in confidence from the intimidating task of memorizing lines and being on stage.
At the same time, some of the actors have to face their pains and fears head-on. Rayman, who plays the Frog Prince, must endure a scene where the entire court of humans laughs mercilessly at him for being a frog. In the first run-through, what starts as fiction quickly begins to invoke a deeper, more visceral emotion in Rayman. His exit from stage seems too abrupt to be simply acting, but the emotion nevertheless stays largely on stage; it takes almost no time before Rayman’s posture returns to its nonchalant norm.
Both of these documentaries avoid any pitfalls with depiction of their subjects, and as a result, the characters we meet are neither over-sympathized nor over-simplified. There’s eloquence and limitation, poignancy and simplicity. In other words, there’s not much difference in these characters than in the ones that populate any other documentary; distance, here, is not a factor.

Catch a viewing of How Does It Feel and The Frog Princes on March 26 at 7 p.m. in H-110. For more information, visit

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