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Different StrokesCreative Energy or Artistic Focus

In Autumn 2019, Creative Health Hub artist Paul Bokslag led two groups of children, aged 5-8 and 9-12, in a series of five creative workshops at The Watch House Cross Library in Limerick. The younger participants enjoyed two hours of creative activities in the morning, while the older children took part in two hour sessions in the afternoons. All of the participants manage a variety of different medical conditions and were well looked after by a paramedic, who was not only on hand to help in case of emergency, but also enjoyed taking an active role in the creative activities. 

Several of the children had participated in a previous workshop series with Helium Arts, and were eager to experience more art projects and exercise their five creative habits of mind: imagination, persistence, discipline, inquisitiveness, and collaboration. Both groups were small, which allowed them to bond as a group while receiving the individual attention they needed to flourish. One mother of an eleven-year-old girl commented, “Sometimes she misses out on information and she loves how you take the time to explain it again without judging her. When she was still in school they would have given out to her for not listening.”

The children play a story dice game to exercise their imaginations.

The sessions all opened with a series of games to engage their minds and bodies and give their creativity a jump start. The younger group responded best to the physical games, delighting in the opportunity to expend some of their pent up energy. The older children really took control of their sessions, with two of the participants introducing their own games.

A participant from the younger group paints a masterpiece.

In the first session, both groups were excited to do some painting. Their eyes lit up as Paul brought out the paints and brushes, letting their imaginations run wild. One child even commented, “I never get the chance to paint!”

Marbled artwork from the older group.

As painting proved such a big hit the first week, Paul introduced a new method of painting in the second session: marbling. The children in both the morning and afternoon workshops gathered around a big tray of water, working together to create beautifully crafted marbled paper. While the young children approached the activity with the energetic gusto of typical five to eight-year-olds, the older group took their time, focusing on the painting and working hard to master the marbling technique.

A younger participant practicing printmaking techniques.

The third session introduced yet another new art form: printmaking. The younger group enjoyed the activity, as it gave them a chance to do something every child loves: get messy. The older children showed how disciplined and persistent they were becoming during this session, as they practiced printing text with the mirror writing technique over and over again until they had mastered it.

Shelter building with the younger group.

The fourth workshop featured shelter building. The younger children took to this activity quite well, many were keen to build something, bringing their creativity off the page and into the third dimension. Two of the boys in this group had formed a fast friendship, even collaborating on an art project together. When one was unable to attend this session, the other continued to work on their shared art piece, commenting in the last session, “I learned a lot and friends aren’t just about having fun, you can also make things together.”

Graffiti tags with the older group.

The older children also worked diligently on their shelters, allowing time for what was perhaps the most anticipated project of the series: creating their own graffiti tags. Many of them had expressed interest in graffiti in the printmaking session, so Paul wanted to be sure to facilitate and encourage this interest. The children not only designed their own graffiti tag, but also drew it with acrylic markers, bringing it to life.

The younger group creating acorn sculptures.

The final workshop was full of creative activity. Both groups created abstract spin paintings using a salad spinner, showing the children that they could use everyday objects to create art. They then moved on to a new project: acorn sculptures. Again, the ability to work in three dimensions excited them. The older children even used their sculptures to create an animation before the session ended.

Children get their families involved in salad spinner art.

At the end of both the morning and afternoon sessions, parents were invited in so the children could show them all of their hard work and beautiful art pieces. The parents also had the opportunity to try out some salad spinner art themselves. Parents and children alike had wonderful feedback, and many are looking forward to participating in more workshops and open studios with Helium Arts in the future.

“Helium Arts is fantastic. My daughter is really enjoying the courses that have been happening in Limerick and has been on every one and has now signed up for the monthly one there. I can see a massive improvement in her confidence. It really is just what she needs.’” -Mother of eleven-year-old participant

“Every Saturday morning they can’t wait to get in the car to come here. They do a lot more colouring at home these days. -Father of two morning session participants.

‘You have inspired them to make a lot of stuff at home. The older one has also blossomed here. Usually he is very concerned about his younger brother and he is the one who gets all the attention.” –Mother of five-year-old participant whose older brother joined him on the programme

Helium Arts’ Creative Health Hubs are supported by the Arts Council and the Social Innovation Fund Ireland. The Limerick Hub is taking place in partnership with University Hospital Limerick, and Limerick City and County Council and Limerick Culture and Arts Department.