Based on the conference room last April, it seemed like Bonaventure House had inherited its very own miniature art gallery. Hanging from the ceiling by thin metal wire, twenty three 8X11 canvases neatly encompassed the room, each with a very different, but very colorful and inspirational story to tell.
The scene was a result of Bonaventure House residents spinning a unique and artistic twist to their Occupational Therapy sessions. Taking up nothing but a blank canvas, their creativity, and some thoughtful reflection, residents participated in answering “What does Bonaventure House mean to me?” by painting their own interpretative response to the question.
The project was a product of Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance, C/OTA, Ray Cendejas, who developed the idea last December to give residents a way to reflect on their personal stories and to channel them towards positive future steps.
“It is safe to say that everyone is at Bonaventure House to rebuild their lives, and they know they are in a period of transformation. I wanted to provide a platform for residents to explore this, and share it with their peers.” Cendejas says.
The group started the process back in January by verbally sharing their stories and insights with one another. Later this lead to expansion on these ideas through a more non-verbal outlet: painting. Having a wide range of artistic backgrounds with some residents very familiar in the arts and others completely new to it, there was some much needed assistance along the way. Providing structure and assisting individuals who have never painted before, Cendejas saw himself as more collaborator than facilitator. “They know all of the answers, and I just helped to pull those answers out of them.”
After completion of the paintings, an unveiling event planned by the participating residents was held to tie everything together and show off all the hard work.
The night started out with light hors d’oeuvres and a short welcome to a crowd of around 25 residents, staff and volunteers. Residents took turns speaking about their paintings through their own method of story or poem to explain their chosen subject. A PowerPoint presentation wrapped up the evening showing each residents face alongside the piece of art they spent their many weeks creating.
“Once residents were able to see the end product and have a chance to share it with everyone, it just took on a life of its own.” Cendejas says.
Joseph Roy, Bonaventure House resident reflects on his time with the project. “This process invigorated my creativity, challenged my imagination, and allowed me to follow through from a thought to completion.” Roy’s choice of subject for his painting is of two baby-like feet to signify the new walk Bonaventure House has allowed him to experience. “What does Bonaventure mean to me?” Roy says, “Infinite possibilities.”
Eventually paintings will be moved and displayed permanently as a wall collage in Bonaventure House.