“I believe that we all have that need to express ourselves and we get great comfort from it, be it through music, or dance, or vision art, and that’s the need for expression. That’s what gives us comfort. And that’s what keeps our mind in a good state,” award-winning, multi-disciplinary artist, Anna Silgardo emphasized, in a recent conversation about her goals as a facilitator, educator, and founder of Artists In Momentum. (AIM).
Her singular focus has been on the individual’s mental well-being using the arts.
With the mantra, “To make a difference one life at a time,” she has had great success with marginalized individuals, newcomers, senior citizens, and children. Her vision and passion have, time and time again, delivered insightful, hands-on, multi-faceted, art-based activities for mental wellness. Through her programs, she introduces art as a means of self-expression. This has had an unparalleled impact as it has proven to reduce isolation, improve self-esteem while creating a fascination for the arts”, writes Dr. Colin Saldanha, family physician and co-founder of ArtsCare, Mississauga, Chair, Advisory Task Force on Mental Health, in an introductory letter congratulating Anna and her family on their recent move to Huntsville.
Recipient of the Mississauga Arts Council’s Arts for Health 2019 Award, Anna, a pioneer of The Starfish Collective and founder of the aforementioned Artists in Momentum (AIM), moved to Huntsville to establish her family in its vibrant artist community, enjoy her retirement, and to make their dreams a reality. “Where Nature Always wears the colours of the spirit”, Anna quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Thirty years after her arrival in Canada seeking a better life, having led successful careers, and raising a family, Anna and her husband now delight in the opportunity to engage in a community she feels is genuinely welcoming and friendly, and also nurtures her artistic aspirations.
“We are very strong in our faith and we just surrendered and everything kind of worked…so beautifully”, she explains after a pause.
Anna has been an artist her whole life. Beginning at nine years old and culminating with studies in Fine Arts, her passion and love for painting and music continued throughout her life. She recognized realistically, that she would have been unable to earn a suitable living without pursuing a professional career and is now hopeful to fully engage in her personal journey.
In 2014, she created Artists In Momentum to help promote the creative spirit within individuals who, like herself, had a job but internally ached for a place to explore and showcase work, in an encouraging and sympathetic environment. Through these early endeavours, Anna came into contact with people who needed support. She began to correlate artistic activity with improved mental health. Through connections in the community, she started a group known as the Starfish Collective, which aimed to expand the therapeutic values of self-expression through various formats.
“We were a diverse group of artists, working together to bring community engagement, through the arts, for the greater good of the individual”, Anna shares. “One person can make a difference because there’s [a]ripple effect when one person looks beyond his or her gain. The spirit of giving just rolls off your hands to impact life.”
Responding to these discoveries, it just took off from there and programs began to take shape that demonstrated the enhanced benefits to providing these activities within a segment of the population—women, children, and senior citizens. Artistic action proved to enable participants to find their own merit and intrinsic self-worth by using all available forms of creative expression—writing, movement, theatre, sculpture, and painting.
“I had seen how it has helped me express and sustain me in the darkest moments of my life.” Anna observed that connecting with like-minded artists in common pursuits bore direct results on the mental well-being of not only the partakers but extended into family and social engagement. As Chair of the Arts for Mental Health Steering Committee, Mississauga & Peel Region, Anna was acknowledged for her achievements.
Programs are designed to suit specific needs, exploring various formats as a path to self-discovery and enhanced self-awareness. They include a wide spectrum of undertakings such as the Write Art Workshop to help free the writer within; Artsense Program Development which targets children from ages 5 to 14 years old and aims to unleash the power of creativity through the eyes and the senses using both sides of the brain and the Magic Flute which focuses on how to bring music into the workplace, to name a few.
Program Outline on YouTube:
Coupled with program design, Anna points out that mental health issues are trending toward unsettling forecasts:
About 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide—an average of almost 11 suicides a day. After accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24.
• In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness.
• Young people,15 to 24, are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group, and less likely to receive the appropriate treatment.
• Canadians are less likely to want to disclose a mental illness like depression than a physical one like cancer.
• Mental illness and substance use disorders are leading causes of disability in Canada.
• People with mental illness and substance use disorders are more likely to die prematurely than the general population. Mental illness can cut 10 to 20 years from a person’s life expectancy. Source: https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics
Artists In Momentum strives to counteract these statistics by using arts as a vehicle for improved self-esteem, confidence, and productive self-development—healing as it were through the power inside both the doer and the doing. Anna quotes a phrase attributed to Albert Einstein, “Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe, and one hand extended into the world letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy”.
More information, HERE.
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