/Look Talk Make: A bundle for joy

Look Talk Make: A bundle for joy

By Jerelyn Craden

Irony, fate, call it what you will, when you look at the timeline that led to the creation of the new Look Talk Make (LTM) program – a collaboration between Fay Wilkinson of The Creative Cocoon and Laurie Jones of Rails End Gallery – it appears that the planets aligned just in time for the duo’s antidote to the feeling of isolation brought on by COVID, illness, aging and more. LTM is different, fun, and creative. It sparks your brain, strengthens your immune system, frees you from the emotional shackles of separation, and it comes in the form of a bundle.  

Walker Routledge, activity aide at Hyland Crest who is currently running the LTM program for long-term residents said, “The bundles have everything we need: instructions, materials, story booklets, etc. Regardless of cognitive capabilities, they thoroughly enjoy the activity. Having so many options and materials included in the bundles lets them guide the activity in the way they want that keeps them engaged, entertained, and smiling.”

Nancy Farrell shows the work she created using materials in a Look Talk Make box.

What is Look Talk Make?

LTM is an activity designed for two people of any age to do together. A parent and their young child. A grandmother and her adult daughter. A couple. A caregiver and the person being cared for.    

“The program was inspired by Adriane Boag, director of the National Gallery of Australia,” Wilkinson, registered expressive arts practitioner and owner of the Creative Cocoon, said.  “In 2019, before COVID hit, she did some workshops here. She took those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers to the Agnes Jamieson Gallery in Minden and did a session using the paintings of André Lapine.”

“Then she came to the Rails End Gallery,” Jones, executive director/curator of the Rails End Gallery said, “and we did a session with healthcare workers – nurses, caregivers and management, too. They looked at the artwork in the gallery and Adriane led them in a workshop that got them responding to what they saw. They were eloquent. The interaction was incredible. People were saying, ‘This is amazing!’”

This inspired Wilkinson and Jones to collaborate on the LTM pilot program which evolved into a bundle of packaged materials: instructions, stencils and paper shapes, a felt board and felt cut-outs, watercolour pencils, watercolour crayons, a brush, glue stick, paper, story booklets, and more. Its key component – a 12 x 12-inch painting that had previously been part of a Rails End Gallery exhibition called Art Squared.

LOOK is how the activity begins. Two participants take the painting out of the bundle and look at it.  It might be an abstract, or imagery that is clearly defined. Then, they look at the enclosed starter cards that have questions such as: What title might you give this painting? What draws your eye? Where do you imagine this might be? What’s beyond the frame? 

TALK is the next step. “Talking with another person about what you are both experiencing can relieve the stress of isolation,” Jones said. “People can feel isolated even in the company of others. You run out of things to talk about. What LTM does in maybe 30 to 60 minutes is dissolve invisible barriers with a shared focus.”

According to Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Nord-Trondelag Health Study that collected the data of those participating in cultural activities like going to art galleries, museums, and concerts had increased rates of good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lowered rates of anxiety and depression. That means that people who enjoy looking at art get health benefits as well as people who enjoy making art.

MAKE comes next. A two-sided card invites the participants to make something from their thoughts and feelings about the painting. 

“We suggest that they are playful with it,” Wilkinson said, “that they find a comfortable spot, and that they can’t get it wrong.”

Side One reads: (1) Stencils. Use them with your crayons to create a new picture. (2) Paper shapes. Decorate or colour them and glue them to create a flat or 3-D picture. (3) Felt board. Use the felt shapes to create a new picture. (4) Add in any of your own supplies.

Side Two invites you to: Be inspired by the painting and/or your creations from stencils, shapes, or felt board. (1) Create a story together or separately in the Story Booklet. (2) There are ideas on how to start each page, but you can ignore them and go your own way. (3) It can be made with words, images, sketches, or any combination like a graphic novel. (4) You can revisit your story and change the ending or come up with several endings. (5) Be playful and have fun. You can’t get it wrong!

At the end of January 2022, the Haliburton County Development Corporation gave the Rails End Gallery a grant to further the LTM program. “That allowed us to make ten bundles,” Wilkinson said, “and to hire Noelia Marziali to create videos and accompanying print materials (instruction guide, conversation starter cards, etc.) as fabricator designer of the bundles.” 

Lindsay Teloka uses the materials in the Look Talk Make box to creatively express herself.

As of this writing, only the pilot program and long-term care residents at Hyland Crest have experienced using the bundles.  

“Our mission is to serve the public interest,” Jones said. “If we had a lending library of these bundles, it would be great. Someone might say, ‘I want to take out a bundle for a month. My mother will be visiting from Calgary.’”

“We might be able to get a local organization to sponsor LTM so that it could circulate for one year in the community, because the materials need to be replenished. A watercolour crayon costs about four dollars, plus the cost of paper and other materials,” Wilkinson said.

“Sponsorship could also pay for some training,” she said. “For example, a family member who is going into long-term care. We could walk a few of their family members through the bundles so that they have an idea of where to begin with their loved one.” 

Jones added, “A sponsor could pay for the training of facilitators – different service providers in various organizations to work with their designated population in the county.”

Hyland Crest’s Routledge shared his personal favourite experience running the LTM program: 

“A resident looked at one of the abstract paintings in the bundle and talked about a garden where she fell in love. She used the felt pieces and made her own abstract garden on the felt board. I can see this being implemented not only into more long-term care homes, but day programs, community care, and schools.”

Ina Hobbs with her Look Talk Make-inspired creation.

To express interest in the LTM program, contact: Laurie Jones at: info@railsendgallery.com or Fay Wilkinson at: fay@thecreativecocoon.com.

To watch the introductory LTM video go to: https://www.flipsnack.com/railsendgallery/look-talk-make-ilot.htm.