(What is Giving Tuesday? It is a global day of giving back after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.)
I have always said that having art in your life is a gift. Something you were either blessed with by birth and upbringing, or a special friend you were lucky enough to meet along the way. It is always there for you, ready to lift your spirits and take you on a new adventure. Someone to console you when times get tough and celebrate when life is amazing. Now, isn’t that friend you would like to share with others?
In my other hats I work at the South Okanagan Women in in Need Society (SOWINS) where I coordinate the marketing, events and volunteers and I also have a small national art supply business that imports encaustic paints and tools for Canada. Working in not-for profit + being a small business owner and an artist, in my life anyhow, means I don’t have a lot of 2 things: time and money.
Working at SOWINS however, I saw the need for something that I could give: the gift of myself through all of these skillsets I had above – artist, marketer, and event planner. I put together a program called Healing Mondays and brought in artist friends and holistic practitioner friends to volunteer their time to share what they love with the women that SOWIN’s serves. This was in 2013. We brought this friend, this ally, this gift to the women of SOWINS who were fleeing and/ or overcoming the effects of abuse. We shared our gifts with around 60 women that year.
All kinds of painting and crafting, meditation, yoga, reiki – if someone was willing to offer their time I would find a room and make an event poster. Over 2014-2015 we shared our gifts with around 80 women – we were definitely getting repeat participants at this point.
Now heading into 2016 our program is at the level that we are receiving grant funding and support- The Hamber Foundation, The Penticton & District Community Arts Counsel, The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, and the Penticton Art Gallery. With any luck we will be able to get a Gaming Grant and grow the program even more. The program has changed names and become partnered with other programs that SOWINS was offering and is called WE with three branches:
WE: Inspire - Arts & Crafts, yoga, meditation – just for fun / for the spirit
WE: Create – Sewing & Making – life skill building
WE: Nourish – Cooking, canning, menus on a budget – more life skills
In 2016 our goal is to bring these types of classes to over 800 women. And now it is not just about art. Art is still part of it, but the program has grown to become fully holistic, embracing the gifts of all members of our community to share with others. Reaching out to our elders and learning life skills from them. Reaching out to the mothers and giving them a place to rest, recharge and learn new things to share with their children.
So why should artists participate in Giving Tuesday? Because we have an amazing gift to share and you never know what it will lead to. Thank you to all of the participants of all the WE Programs, to SOWINS, our community partners and all of the artists and facilitators who have joined on this journey of sharing what you love.
(All artwork in this post was created by women in the WE: Inspire art classes)