Update: Concordia’s downtown Le Gym will reopen, but the Loyola campus’ PERFORM Centre may reopen in October at the earliest

Campus gyms that do reopen this semester will need students to present double proof of vaccination

Update: According to an announcement published on Sept.27, Concordia’s downtown campus gym, Le Gym, will reopen on Oct. 4. This article published on Sept. 28 has been updated with the new information.

Concordia’s downtown Le Gym will reopen to all students on Oct. 4, with registration opening a few days earlier on Oct. 1, as the Loyola campus’ PERFORM Centre remains closed to students.

Le Gym will open at a reduced capacity, and there will no reservation system in place. Students can access the newly opened gym on campus from Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m to 8 p.m..

With fall 2021 being the first semester with in-person classes since the beginning of the pandemic, many students were looking forward to taking advantage of the affordable university gyms, a service supported in part by tuition fees. Regular exercise has long been shown to improve mental health and strengthen cognitive abilities, all benefits in dire need of attention after a prolonged quarantine.

Loyola campus’ PERFORM Centre website features an outdated message:  “the University campus remains closed […] the gym will therefore remain closed as well until the campus is again open to the public”.

However, even though the campus has reopened, the PERFORM Centre has remained closed to students, with only Le Gym opening downtown.

Kevin Hammill, the service coordinator of the Loyola campus PERFORM Centre, said that they hope to open “sometime in October. Most likely, the vaccination passport will be required.”

He added that prices for membership will be revised, “because you’re going to lose at least six weeks so we can’t charge the full cost — there will be reduced hours, reduced days, depending on research.”

Although gyms have reopened across Montreal, Hammill reminds students that the PERFORM Centre is primarily for research rather than being a traditional for-profit gym. Right now, only research study participants have access to the PERFORM Centre on Loyola campus. Regular students are at the bottom of this priority hierarchy.

Prior to the announcement that Le Gym was opening, Concordia students shared their frustration with campus gyms remaining closed.

Aedan Conlin is in the third year of his computer science degree. He was planning to attend Le Gym since most gyms near where he lives are not affordable.

“I was expecting my university to promote physical health, given the mental health benefits, but I had to scramble to find something,” Conlin said.

For many, the convenience of a gym that can be attended before or after classes is hard to replace.

“I used to work out and then do my schoolwork and it would really help me concentrate. It was very convenient,” said Ephrathah Hadgu, a student at the Loyola campus. “The worst part is the travel, not the cost.”

There is no guarantee the PERFORM Centre will reopen. “We don’t want to open and close two or three weeks later because we didn’t think it out well enough. It’s also contingent on society, if hospitalization goes up, if COVID cases go up — we’ll have to re-examine and reassess,” Hammill added.

For those looking for a gym immediately can access Le Gym as long as they can show double proof of their COVID vaccination. Another option is Éconofitness centres, which are relatively affordable and located throughout Montreal. The local YMCAs, although pricier, offer a reduced fare based on financial need. The application can be found online.


Photograph by Christine Beaudoin


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.

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