Colourful Minds: Creating a space of collaboration

In January, Toronto Art Therapy Institute student Marina Saad partnered with North York General Hospital’s Recreational Therapy department to design a unique three-week pilot project on the adult inpatient psychiatric unit. Project: Colourful Minds had a successful three-week trial and received overwhelming positive feedback. The pilot project has now become part of the program’s weekly activities.

Project: Colourful Minds is an interactive, erasable wall mural that invites dialogue through visual art and social interaction on the unit. Recreational Therapist Elisa Lerman explains a topic is written on the wall three times a week and patients are encouraged to communicate through drawing or writing. “Patients are very engaged and even ask for it. It’s a great way for them to express themselves and they really enjoy it because they can erase their drawing or sentence and start over,” says Elisa. This project promotes community and personal enrichment by providing a forum to communicate their ideas on an ongoing basis.

The wall creates a space of collaboration, empowerment and expression where patients, visitors and staff are invited to share their story and celebrate community engagement. Daily directives inspire participants to reflect positively on themes such as community, inclusion and social engagement. This has shown to be effective as participation does not rely on verbal communication or artistic skills.

Studies have shown that arts-for-health projects create bonding and bridge social experiences for participants. Patients are given the freedom, independence and space to problem solve and organize their thoughts around what to draw orwrite, which in turn enhances concentration.

Elisa notes other units in the hospital have approached her about running a similar project in their areas. “Using a mural, like the one we have implemented, on other units would definitely benefit both patients and staff,” she says.

The wall has been a tremendous success, proving to be a great tool for staff to engage and facilitate meaningful conversations with patients, fostering relationships, reducing isolation and promoting self-initiation.

Colourful Minds: outdoor wall mural

Colourful Minds: wall mural

April 9, 2015


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This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Learn more