Arts more than just paintings on the wall at youth treatment centre

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Believing in the healing power of art, a Calgary agency working with traumatized youth has revamped two of its live-in buildings with an emphasis on sensory-based furnishings and decor.

Hull Services has designed spaces and strategically decorated them to support the brain development of its young clients. A grant helped furnish both the Preadolescent Treatment Program (PTP), located in Mike’s House, and the Specialized U-13 (U13), located in the Sweetgrass Lodge at the southwest Woodbine centre. Both buildings received art, décor and furniture specific to the programs and the youth receiving care.

These specialized programs are for youth who have suffered severe trauma or neglect, or both, where they how to regulate their emotions, and improve social and emotional functioning.

“Exposure to trauma affects how children think, feel, behave and regulate their biologic systems,” said Shawn O’Grady, program director of Hull Services’ U13 and PTP. “One of the key strategies which we have learned … is the significant impacts of sensory-based inputs and subsequent learning.”

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New Indigenous-inspired art provides a sensory-rich environment for youth in residence at Hull Services.
New Indigenous-inspired art provides a sensory-rich environment for youth in residence at Hull Services. jpg

This includes how physical spaces are decorated. So Hull Services worked with staff and the youth on the revamp while keeping an Alberta theme and honouring local Indigenous communities.

“We know through all the research that being in nature is super important. So being out in natural areas, in the fresh air walking and getting exercise, is very, very regulating. So we included lots of artwork that represents Alberta,” said Pat Foran, assistant director of the programs. “We also wanted the Indigenous youth to feel welcomed and at home, so a lot of the art in the hallways and offices are primarily Indigenous. There are three murals in Mike’s House painted by an Indigenous artist that are just breathtaking.”

One of those artists is also a Hull employee. Jason Fischer is a child and youth care counsellor in both of the noted programs.

“If nothing else, I hope that if kids, staff, or anyone who comes into our spaces, is having a difficult day, they can see the pictures we have throughout our buildings and find some momentary distraction or bring back some of their own happy memories from spending time in nature.”

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