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Suganya Vadivelu holding up a drawing she made during the art classes provided by Dundas Valley School of Art
Suganya Vadivelu participated in Dundas Valley School of Art’s free art program for Hamilton healthcare workers.
June 3, 2021

A creative reprieve for healthcare workers

As the pandemic continues, the Hamilton community has been showing their gratitude to healthcare workers any way they can. This includes Dundas Valley School of Art (DVSA). Understanding the therapeutic benefits of art, DVSA took it upon themselves to create the Art to Heart program, a series of free art classes for healthcare workers.

Claire Loughheed, executive director, Dundas Valley School of Art

Claire Loughheed, executive director, Dundas Valley School of Art

“DVSA already has many healthcare workers among our students, and we knew, pre-pandemic, they appreciated the time in the studios,” says Claire Loughheed, DVSA executive director. “In undertaking the Art to Heart program, we felt we could offer healthcare workers a positive outlet. Self-care is more critical than ever for healthcare workers during these times.”

Art therapy for healthcare workers

The program began in March and offered eight classes over eight weeks with a different project each class. All activities were specifically designed for people without an artistic background. Materials were provided in advance, for free, and classes were offered online. Classes were led by a certified art psychotherapist as they were intended to provide a greater therapeutic element then a simple “how to” class.

Funded by the Hamilton Community Foundation, 58 healthcare workers from across Hamilton participated in the program. With a long waitlist and favourable feedback, DVSA hopes to be able to offer the program again soon.

Feeling rejuvenated

“It was such a positive experience,” says Suganya Vadivelu, education and development clinician at Hamilton Health Sciences. “There was a lot of self-reflection and looking into deeper meanings of the art we created. I really enjoyed it and felt rejuvenated after each class.”

In the past, Vadivelu had taken art classes recreationally. So when these classes became available, she knew it would be something she’d enjoy. She even had her two sons participate with her.

“Not only were the classes a great break from daily stresses, but it gave me the opportunity to spend time with my kids,” she says. “My older son and I had so much fun in the scribbles class. It wasn’t just scribbling on a page, we actually reflected on what we saw and how it made us feel, then developed the drawing further. We turned scribbles into art!”

scribbles artwork

Artwork done by Suganya and her older son during the free hand scribble art session.

Special family time

They enjoyed the classes so much that Vadivelu, her husband and their kids now have a family art night once a week. Despite the family seeing each other more often due to the pandemic, she says their family art night is a special way to spend time together.

Vadivelu is proud of the pieces of art she created during the Art to Heart program and keeps them in her office at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. She finds they give her a moment of reprieve throughout her day, and she smiles when reminiscing on the quality time with her family.

For those working in the hospital during a global pandemic, those moments can make a world of difference.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you to Dundas Valley School of Art,” says Vadivelu.

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