Common Ground and Intentional Aging: The Healing Power of Art

Michelle Benjamin, Executive Director

Gabriola Arts Council

Tuesday, October 4 2016

GAC has announced two new sessions in the Healing Power of Art program. Expressive arts therapies provide ways of communicating what cannot be conveyed in conventional language, combining therapeutic processes with visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing, and other creative processes to support personal growth and community development. When people share life’s challenges through art within a community, it can be a deceptively simple yet profoundly powerful experience, and healing processes can happen. This program is not about teaching artistic skills; rather, it calls on the power of artistic expression to support health and well-being.

Significant research indicates that participation in the arts is essential to community and personal well-being. Sharon McCoubrey, Coordinator of Community Engagement for the Faculty of Education at UBC Okanagan, has collected research from around the world that provides evidence for arts being “integral to healing and resilience.” A 2014 study by Canadian arts researchers Hill Strategies indicate a “strong correlation between arts participation, health, and well-being” and an “improved sense of social inclusion.”

GAC’s arts-based support programs are accessible to all interested participants. Programs are offered for free, and workshops are held in community space—the Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre—rather than a medical environment to increase comfort, and reduce stigma and anxiety. Embraced by health care providers, these programs are recommended to patients and clients by local doctors, therapists, and other health service providers. 

This Fall, after discussions with community members and a review with program facilitators, we have changed the focus of the cancer program. The new program—Common Ground: An Arts-Based Support Group for Those Living with a Life-Challenging Illness—will include previous participants from the cancer group who will welcome new people managing similar challenges but with different illnesses. Our goal is to widen the reach of the program and so provide support to even more community members. Integrative Arts Therapists Liz McKnight and Jaki Deer continue as the program facilitators.

A new session of the popular program for seniors, Intentional Aging: Exploring the Path from Senior to Elder, begins on October 17. The facilitators—drama therapist Kayte Summers and narrative therapist Maggie Mooney—use a “tree of life” device to create opportunities to explore important questions about personal history, role in family and community, and dreams and expectations for the future through a meaningful exploration of the challenges, joys, and responsibilities of becoming an elder. 

For the detailed schedule and registration information, go to or look for the posters around the Island.