Fine coffee and chocolate for the palette, and art for the soul: the Green Wood Creative Arts Group is displaying work at Harden & Huyse Coffee throughout July. It’s a lovely place to linger over a cuppa and check out the bold, colourful work of the Green Wood artists.
The Green Wood group meets weekly in Port Hope, to learn skills, techniques, and explore new art media with local artists. The focus of the show’s work is mixed media, a combination of drawing, collage and painting. A series of fanciful birds are light and humorous, while other pieces combine vintage images with layers of colour. Port Hope artist, Heather Roy, curated this exhibition.
For the group, art making offers an opportunity to create works that are expressive and affirming. The friendships, acceptance and encouragement the artists offer to each other are an important part of the whole experience. The Green Wood Creative Art Group has been meeting for five years, and has had such local artists as Hilda Van Netten, Alice VanderVennan and Susan MacDonald devote their time and skills to lead the group.
David Sheffield, Community Outreach Worker for Green Wood Coalition, facilitates the art group, and begins each session with a poem or reflection, to help the group focus. Some sessions are devoted entirely to the written word, and poets like Rick Webster, Cliff Bell-Smith and Carol Anne Bell-Smith share their skills in writing poetry.
The exhibition continues through the month of July at Harden & Huyse, 201 Division St., Cobourg. An opening event will be held on Thursday, July 17 from 4-6 P.M. where many of the artists will be present.
Recently, a message of hope was brought to Port Hope, at an evening hosted by Green Wood Coalition, at St. Mark’s Parish Hall. Greg Paul, a founder of the Sanctuary community in Toronto, spoke about building a place where street involved folks can find safety, dignity, joy, family, and an opportunity to give back to society.
From its beginnings as a few musicians chatting with street people, Sanctuary grew to its current community of around 600, with a staff of 18 who are dedicated to building a foundation in those whose lives have been decimated by misfortune. A drop-in for those who live in the street, in shelters or other temporary and precarious arrangements creates a place where folks can gather, share meals, make art, work, and feel at home.
The most powerful and hopeful theme that recurred throughout Greg’s presentation, was that people who have a lot, need people who don’t have a lot, just as much as those who don’t have, need those who do.
When one participant remarked to Greg, “You are a very special person, to do this work," Greg countered that we are all made for this relationship building, connecting with our neighbours, and caring for each other. He relayed how important it is for stakeholders to come and be served by the street involved people, to visit and get to know some of the individuals who are part of the community at the drop-in.
Remarkably, Sanctuary is largely funded by private donation. This allows the organization to operate without the usual slavish dependence on grant formulas that become narrowly driven number goals. When asked “What does success mean to your organization?”, Greg responded that the goals are measured by the stories of individuals who have found some healthy connection to others in their lives, relationships that allow them to receive and express care, and proficiency in areas such as art-making, cooking, organizing and assisting with day-to-day operations.
Green Wood Coalition is striving to build that kind of community here in Port Hope, and the efforts of a group of local people from very different walks of life is growing, as the hope spreads.
-Heather Roy, Port Hope