In May our board had the pleasure of attending a Community Art Night dedicated to the Crystal Kids Program in the Stollery Gallery at Alberta Avenue’s Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts.
The evening celebrated the program, previously funded by Rotary Urban Spirits, that the REALTORS® Community Foundation is proud to be funding in full for the upcoming year.
We were delighted to meet the kids in the program at the Community Art Night alongside their instructors, we got to view (and purchase!) their artwork, and learn more about the Nina’s work. One of our favourite parts was seeing the kids light up as they told us about why they made the art they did and seeing the pride light up their faces.
Our Governors in attendance had the pleasure of taking a tour of the Nina with Artistic Director, Paul Freeman to see and learn how the Nina serves people in our community. We learned about all the different modalities of art that are practiced, giving opportunities for artists to master and learn various skills, and find what is most enjoyable for them. Paul was - as we've seen from every staff member - incredibly passionate about what the Nina offers and the difference it makes as a resource for the people they serve.
The Nina, perhaps in the most simple sense, is an art collective. It provides a space, supplies, and expert guidance for people to express their creativity through the arts. Art has the ability to connect and inspire many of us, but what makes the Nina unique is that most of the artists at the Nina live with developmental disabilities, some of whom live in group homes nearby in the Alberta Ave community, others who are able to be more independent but still face barriers. They share the commonality of being excluded from many other opportunities in society, which makes the programs, inclusiveness and low fees (a few hundred dollars a year including all supplies) so meaningful not just as a creative place but a place of belonging.
Just over 200 artists belong to the Nina and come in from one hour a week to full time. When artists sell their work they get to keep 50% of the proceeds which makes a pretty big difference especially for those living on fixed incomes.
As the night was pretty busy with mixing, mingling and art adoring - our Executive Director Anika popped back in last month to chat with Janice Easton, the Nina’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator to fill out the notes for this post. Janice was oozing with passion and care for the artists at the Nina; even while sitting for our meeting, seeing the way she handled questions from the artists with her clearly established knowledge of each of their unique stories was amazing.
One of the things both Paul and Janice spoke about was the luxury artists feel in being able to eat lunch whenever they please. Often times if people live in assisted or group living, their lives are scheduled collectively; having the freedom to choose something as simple as when to eat lunch is a little piece that makes a big impact for people who so often are forced to live within limitations.
When Anika asked Janice what made her so passionate about the Nina, she noted that it is incredible to see what can happen when people are celebrated for what they can do after a lifetime of being told what they can’t.
Through the Crystal Kids program, the REALTORS® Community Foundation hopes that more children are celebrated for their art abilities, given the space to be creative and the avenues to express who they are. This so that they can continue to grow up in a world of celebration and thrive as caring members of the community. Thank you to the Nina Haggerty for welcoming us (twice) and continuing to work so tirelessly to continue offering such valuable services.
Anika and Nina artist, Carl - you can see an original art piece by Carl in the Foundation office and read about his inspiring story of overcoming illness and his love for oil painting!