Nfld. & Labrador

What's the Art Hive? It's like a pub, but with painting instead of pints

There's no alcohol at the permanent art centre that just found a home in St. John's, but it's the same idea: providing a public space for people to make friends and enjoy the community.

Part art therapy, part 'community psychology,' and lots of fun at new art centre

The Hearthstone Art Hive will be open to everyone 20 hours a week — whether you want to paint, talk or just hang out. (Katie Breen/CBC)

It's cheery and welcoming, but this is not your usual public house.

The Hearthstone Art Hive, once a project for newcomers based in a high school, now has a permanent home on Bannerman Street in the Cochrane Centre in St. John's.

With funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, it'll be open to everyone at least 20 hours a week for the next two years — whether you want to paint, talk or just hang out.

The Hive is "grounded in an intersection between art therapy, community psychology and social justice," explains Leah Lewis, the project's lead researcher and an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Memorial University.

"It's founded on the idea that public gathering spaces are important … for fostering inclusion and connection within communities," especially for the marginalized or isolated, Lewis said.

Leah Lewis is the project's lead researcher and an assistant professor of counselling psychology at MUN. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Lewis frames the project as a "grassroots" idea of using friendship and teaching in order to promote mental health. 

"We're not a clinical program, but we are a community program that focuses on using creativity — art making — as a vessel for connecting," she said.

'We have a home'

The Hearthstone Art Hive's coordinator Cathia Finkel said it's beneficial for the program to have its own permanent space.

Cathia Finkel is the Art Hive's coordinator. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"We can set up the whole room as we see fit, we can put up all the art we want, we can stuff the cupboards full of materials," she said.

"We can just keep on going, and we can keep inviting people to come and make art — whoever they are, as they are."

With their new space, Lewis said the program can reach more people than ever before.

"What it means is we have a home, and that our programming can actually become more comprehensive and more prolific," she said. 

The Hearthstone Community Art Hive opened the permanent location for their program in the Cochrane Centre in downtown St. John's on Friday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

For those additional people who can visit the Art Hive, Finkel called it a transformative experience

"The therapeutic part is a complex thing, but it's also very simple. It's sometimes just sitting with people and just making art," she said.

"Sometimes it can evoke some pretty deep emotional things, but mostly, and overall, I think it is an incredible catalyst, a community engagement catalyst."