Arts-based storytelling takes centre stage

L’ARDOISE: An exhibit of arts-based storytelling will took place last Tuesday at the Louisdale Lions Club on Whiteside Road in Louisdale. The exhibit showcased the storytelling of local seniors who took part in workshops over the past two months.

It is the result of the Dr. Kingston Memorial Community Health Centre’s (DKMCHC) New Horizons for Seniors grant, called Seeing Our Community Through the Eyes of Seniors. Artists were at the exhibit to explain the different workshops in which they participated.

“I took part in two workshops – Photovoice and Digital Storytelling,” said Sheila Foggie. “The Digital Story I made is called My Sister and Me. I thought it was about her but through sharing I had a light bulb moment and realized it was actually about me; my isolation, my lack of health care, my mobility issues, my social isolation. But I also recognized that we can do something to change it.”

In the third workshop – zines (short for magazine) – some residents of the St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre in Arichat shared stories produced into nine booklets. The Photovoice workshop resulted in a collaborative photo essay about loneliness and aging called Hidden Away. It was displayed with other individual Photovoice projects. Digital Stories are videos that use photos, music and narration. Three Digital Stories were also aired at this public exhibit.

The exhibit showcased the second iteration of workshops held in Richmond County for seniors 55 years of age and older. The three workshops are added to another three that took place in the fall of 2017. The previous arts-based storytelling workshops included Photovoice, zines and theatre. All are displayed at www.kingstonarts.org.

“These workshops will help us to understand how people view the changing conditions under which they live after retirement,” said DKMCHC board chair Dorothy Barnard.

“There are both challenges and benefits to getting older that are not well understood. There is a chance to participate in community life in ways one cannot before retirement. And there are challenges such as a sense of lost purpose, sometimes compounded by loss of mobility, financial health, physical health, family and friends. It is these challenges we hope to address by doing things differently.”

Barnard said the arts-based workshops have two purposes. First, getting people involved in meaningful projects regardless of whether they are searching for deeper social connections or currently satisfied with that part of their lives.

“We are looking for a variety of people,” she said. The second purpose is to gather insight about life, as rural senior citizens, directly from seniors and those nearing that designation.

In April 2017, the DKMCHC received a $25,000 grant from New Horizons for Seniors Community-based projects. It is a Government of Canada initiative that provides funding for projects led or inspired by seniors who want to make positive changes in their communities.