History

2015

Willow Arts Community began as a grassroots movement in St. Catharines, Ontario. Founder/Director Shauna MacLeod was attending outpatient mental health services in 2015 and openly discussed the need for something “more” in terms of programming for people with lived experience of mental health/addictions. Encouraged by a psychiatric nurse and supported by others who echoed her vision, she identified there was an immediate need for an ongoing support network where individuals living with mental illness/addictions can participate in their own recovery process by exploring their creativity in a safe, community-based environment.

The founding “start-up committee” consisted of individuals with lived experience of mental health/addictions, artists, educators, and supporters. In October 2015, we began by meeting weekly in coffee shops with the sole purpose of developing an organization. We named ourselves The Willow Community- Shauna grew up climbing a beloved willow tree- a safe place where she could escape and write poetry.

We researched existing and complementary agencies, explored locations in the city, and by December 2015, we had drafted our mission, values, and vision. Shauna held true to her belief that real change happens from the ground up. She refused the idea of sitting in boardrooms making decisions for people, and instead motivated and empowered individuals with lived experience of mental health/addictions to help create The Willow Community.

2016

Willow Arts Programs

  • Provided 24 hours of free arts-based workshops
  • Hosted 34 hours of family friendly game and craft nights
  • Published 12 editions of our newsletter “BrainStorm” highlighting our members creative talents, and helping to communicate our vision to the arts and health sectors

Exhibitions

  • Art Me Up Group Exhibition (member participation) | Niagara Artists Centre | February 2016
  • Art Me Up goes to City Hall Juried Exhibition (member participation) | St. Catharines City Hall | May 2016

Achievements

  • Incorporated as a non-profit organization in Ontario
  • Completed Phase 2 of Workman Arts Scaling Project grant. Shortlisted as one of six community partnerships across Ontario interested in supporting an arts and mental health program.

Program Location and Project Partners

  • Canadian Mental Health Association of Niagara (Page St location)
  • Start Me Up Niagara
  • Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University

Funding

  • Donations

2017

Willow Arts Programs

  • Provided 88 hours of free arts workshops

Exhibitions/Events

  • Culture Days Live Art Demo | Port Dalhousie | Sept 2017
  • Group show Fall Arts Showcase | Mahtay Cafe and Lounge | Dec 2017

Achievements

  • Successful collaborative proposal to Workman Arts earned St. Catharines one of three spots on phase 3 of Ontario Trillium Foundation grant with North Bay and Thunder Bay

Program Location and Project Partners

  • Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University
  • Mahtay Cafe and Lounge
  • Start Me Up Niagara

Funding

  • 80’s Dance Party Fundraiser
  • Paint Nite Fundraiser
  • Donations
  • Ontario Arts Council in partnership with Joe Lapinski Songs from the Willow music program

2018

Willow Arts Programs

  • 75 hours of free arts programming (Arts in Nature; workshops)

Exhibitions/Performances

  • Group show Winter Arts Showcase | Mahtay Cafe and Lounge | Feb 2018
  • In the Soil Arts Festival workshop and performance of Songs from the Willow | Niagara Artists Centre | April 2018
  • Group show Spring Arts Showcase | Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University | May 2018
  • City of St. Catharines Arts Award performance | The Sky is the Limit | FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre | June 2018
  • Album release and performance of Songs from the Willow | Niagara Artists Centre | July 2019
  • Group show Abstract City Hall | St. Catharines City Hall | Nov 2018
  • Group show Fall Arts Exhibition |  Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University | Dec 2018

Publications

  • Members published in online journal ti<  | April 2018
  • Branches Zine | May 2018
  • Songs from the Willow album| July 2018

Achievements

  • Workman Arts secured three years of provincial funding and Willow Arts Community is now the home of one of three pilot sites across Ontario.
  • Making a Difference nomination | City of St. Catharines Arts Award | June 2018
  • Jury’s Pick award | City of St. Catharines Arts Award | June 2018
  • Social Enterprise Women in Business nomination | Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce | Nov 2018
  • Key Partnership award with Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University | Ontario Association of Art Galleries | Nov 2018

Program Location and Project Partners

  • Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University
  • Workman Arts
  • Niagara Artists Centre
  • Mahtay Cafe and Lounge
  • Art Fix Nipising
  • Workman Arts Northwest Ontario
  • Niagara Region Mental Health
  • Canadian Mental Health Association of Niagara
  • Start Me Up Niagara
  • Oak Centre Clubhouse

Funding

  • Ontario Trillium Foundation
  • St. Catharines Cultural Investment Program
  • 80’s Dance Party Fundraiser
  • Donations

2019

Willow Arts Program

Exhibitions/Performances

  • Group Show Winter Arts Exhibition | Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University | April 2019
  • The Community Tree mural | Canadian Mental Health Association of Niagara | April 2019
  • St. Catharines Arts Award performance | I RISE | FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre | Coming May 2019
  • Group Show Spring Arts Exhibition | Mahtay Cafe and Lounge | Coming July 2019
  • Group Show (member participation) Piece of Mind | Niagara Artists Centre | Coming August 2019
  • Group Show for artist-in-residence project (name TBD) | Niagara Artists Centre | Coming August 2019

Program Location and Program Partners

  • Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University
  • Workman Arts
  • Niagara Artists Centre
  • Suitcase in Point Theatre Company
  • Mahtay Cafe and Lounge
  • Art Fix Nipising
  • Workman Arts Northwest Ontario
  • Niagara Region Mental Health
  • Canadian Mental Health Association of Niagara
  • Start Me Up Niagara
  • Oak Centre Clubhouse

Funding

  • Ontario Trillium Foundation
  • St. Catharines Cultural Investment Program
  • Donations