Spotlight on the FFTNL & Visual Artist Dominique Hurley

Dominique Hurley leads a painting workshop on the Port au Port Peninsula with the Association Régionale de la Cote Ouest (ARCO) at the Mainland (Grand’terre) school/centre. Leslie Quennehen photo

Have you ever attended the symphony and experienced a wave of peace and serenity wash over you? Do you recall a time when you felt angry, but drove your rage away by diving into your favourite artistic pursuit? You are likely not alone. Art has a way of soothing us and helps bring the best versions of ourselves to light. According to the Arts Health Network Canada, “Participation in the arts, whether more passively as a spectator or more actively when engaged in creative expression, seems to activate known mental and physical mechanisms which reduce tensions, strengthen the immune system and protect against depression. Participation also widens social networks, reduces feelings of isolation and marginalization, giving a feeling of connection, or belonging to a group.”

The Fédération francophone de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador (FFTNL) is one organization that has been tapping into the healing power of the arts, with the help of visual artist Dominique Hurley.

In 2014, the FFTNL hired Hurley to teach intuitive painting to children and adults in communities across the province, including St. John’s, Port au Port, Labrador City and Goose Bay. And in 2016/2017, the FFTNL’s Francophone Health Network of Newfoundland and Labrador hired her again to teach her “Intuition into Action” workshop.

An artist takes part in an intuitive painting session on the Port au Port Peninsula. Leslie Quennehen photo

Roxanne Leduc, Deputy Director responsible for the Health Network, says “there is evidence that art-based interventions have a positive effect in reducing psychological and physiological problems, though evidence lacks to prove the extent of the impact.”

Over the past two years, Leduc says, the Health Network has focussed on mental health initiatives.

“The most recent initiative went beyond traditional mental health programs to engage community members in alternative ways of living a balanced life. Dominique sought to give workshop participants better access to their intuition for a healthier and happier life. During the workshop, she defined intuition, why it’s important and the five steps to activate it. Dominique also proposed two exercises: guided meditation and an intuitive reading,” Leduc says.

“In addition to promoting healthy living, the workshop aimed to reduce stress, anxiety and the likelihood of depression, and increase positive emotions.”

The benefits of working with artists are manifold, says Louis-Christophe Villeneuve, Cultural Network Coordinator with the FFTNL, including introducing creativity in new and unexpected ways.

Dominique Hurley’s piece “Ask and You Shall Receive.”

“They bring new points of view and new interest,” he says, adding that artists generally react well to change – something which many of us can improve upon.

“Working together is sharing experiences and knowledge and only good things can result out of it,” he says. “The only request is openness from both parties.”

Villeneuve says the FFTNL has been integrating more and more artists into its different networks and activities, and will “continue, increase and promote working with artists.”

“Arts and culture is a major industry sector and numbers are there,” he adds, pointing to a Statistics Canada study which states that the cultural industries accounted for 3.2 per cent of total Canadian revenues, reaching $99.3 billion in 2010.

“We (private and public organizations) have to recognise these facts and work together for and with artists and cultural workers.”