In the winter of 2015 Christine Mockett and Karina Bergmans participated in the first year of AOE Arts Council’s artist-in-residence program Art Place. For six weeks, Christine and Karina taught their “People-Place” weekly sculpture building class to clients of Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre (Amethyst), a residential treatment centre for women and addiction.
Christine and Karina brought in materials, put down tarps, unfolded tables and converted a cozy-couch group room into a make-a-mess art space. With the starting idea of sculptures that combine the features of a physical place with the human form, participants dove into their individual and group creativity. They helped each other, developed their own designs, learned to see art materials in almost everything and immersed themselves and their instructors in fun. Participants mixed concrete, wired wings, dressed ninja’s and taught the instructors once again just how much wonderful it is to share creativity and learning.
Following the success of this workshop, all parties were interested in exploring another program and also started to look at future possibilities of creating a permanent arts program at Amethyst.
Christine and Karina are now teaching a 12 week “Stepping Stones” workshop at Amethyst, funded by the Ontario Arts Council’s Arts Education Projects program (OAC). Participants are learning how to create concrete stepping stones, molds for casting, wall plaques, hypertufa containers, and about safety and material handling.
The “Stepping Stones” workshop begins with design ideas, creating molds for concrete, casting concrete and adding creative details to the stepping stones. While the concrete is curing on the storage racks, the focus shifts to the creation of hypertufa pots. The hypertufa is made by mixing Portland cement, peat moss, vermiculite, water and fibre and then shaping it into a pot either free form or over a mold. The hypertufa starts its curing time and participants move on to mosaics, adhesives, grout and more.
Many of the classes take place outdoors in the backyard at Amethyst. Due to the types of materials being used, health and safety is a significant part of the lessons for the participants. Through material manipulation, participants experience creative action with various weights, textures and colourants. The material handling is a transferable skill to future endeavors and offers Amethyst clients a physical representation of their journey toward health: one step at a time.
In the final sessions of the course, Christine, Karina and guest artist Deborah Margo lead the participants in the creation of a stepping stone pathway and garden installation at Amethyst. With stone dust, gravel, shovels, gardening tools and their creations in hand, the class and instructors work as a team.
Finally, guest artist and gardener Deborah Margo leads the participants in a garden design and planting session. Growth, renewal, care and positioning of the new leafy green residents are covered, and participants have the opportunity to do plantings in hypertufa pots for themselves and for the permanent garden area at Amethyst.
The “Stepping Stones” installation will remain as a pathway and garden for current and future Amethyst clients to walk and enjoy, drawing inspiration from positive imagery and a connection to others working towards similar goals.
For artists Christine and Karina, and community organization Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre, AOE Arts Council’s Art Place program in 2015 facilitated the establishment of a strong relationship between art and the community. Christine and Karina are thrilled to work with Amethyst again through funding from the OAC, and to have the opportunity to provide Amethyst’s clients with an enriching creative experience. As artists we are not only thrilled to be working with Amethyst, but most especially with the wonderful creative and lively ladies we have the great privilege of having in our workshops.
By Christine Mockett and Karina Bergmans