By Rebecca Spry
More Than Just Art, located at 15 Manominee Street in Huntsville, reopened their doors in July following the pandemic lockdown. They successfully ran six COVID compliant art camps this past summer and owners Diane and Gord Finlayson, have not looked back!
“It amazes me how during this pandemic and lockdown arts and culture activities have become the lifeline people are using to stay connected,” says visual artist and instructor Helena Renwick. “People turned to art, music, entertainment, and culinary arts to stay sane. I think this pandemic has shown us and continues to show us how important arts are to the mental health and well-being of our community.”
“More Than Just Art is a multi-faceted facility. We are a group of professional associates dedicated to providing an inclusive place to learn, process, practice, and apply fine arts and holistic arts. Our mission is to encourage and support everyone’s unique path to wholeness,” says Diane. “We are here to support and to serve our community during these challenging times.”
Blessed with a 3,300-square-foot facility, they can offer in-studio classes in art, yoga, and music, all respecting social distancing and safety requirements. They also provide the option of participating in most classes via Zoom when participants are ill or just more comfortable learning from home.
“Come breathe with us either in studio or live via Zoom,” invites yoga instructor Andrea Johnston. “Yoga is mindfulness in movement. The body-mind awareness that yoga cultivates is extremely important for our self-care, especially in a pandemic when emotions of fear, anxiety, and panic are abundant.”
Speech-language pathologist Valerie Pulkys-Dingman has enjoyed the inclusive atmosphere at More Than Just Art and plans to expand her practice in holistic wellness and healing work in the new year.
“Gord and Diane have a vision for our community that includes health and wellness through visual arts, musical arts, and the healing arts of meditation, yoga and mindfulness,” says Renwick. “It is a jewel in our community and is being discovered by many people every day.”
This past summer, the Muskoka Music Centre joined forces with More Than Just Art.
“There is an incredible synergy between art and music!” explains Music Centre director Judy Freeman. “We are excited to have more classroom space for physical distancing and growth in the coming years. This year, acknowledging the stress many families in our community are facing, we are happy to develop lesson plans that fit each family’s goals.”
“More Than Just Art is one of the best places in Muskoka to learn, explore, and create in a safe and friendly environment,” says Renwick.
“Kids are very imaginative, curious and creative by nature,” says art instructor Catherine Luce. “Art classes can help develop those skills as well as fine motor skills. There is also a social aspect to coming to a class as the kids learn from each other and are very eager to chat about their observations and creations. It is also a great deal of fun, and the kids can let their imaginations run wild, which is important during this difficult time.”
“Children and adults alike flourish in an atmosphere of acceptance and nonjudgement,” adds Diane. “Here, art is viewed as self-expression and process. At any time, the freedom to do and to process without restrictions and with encouraging support is invaluable. We need to give ourselves permission to have moments and time to simply be.”
“More Than Just Art is a positive, supportive, and creative space where children and adults alike can come and learn the importance of cultivating well-being, fostering a love for the arts, and developing awareness of the self and others,” says yoga instructor Martina Kruger. “With fitness classes and yoga classes for adults and children, people can expect to practise self-care in their bodies as well as learn the importance of taking care of their mental well-being. Diane and Gord Finlayson have created a welcoming and inclusive space where people can feel cared for and supported in their own goals to live holistically.”
As winter closes in, More Than Just Art would like to reach out to the community and offer a safe, friendly, and fun space to connect, learn, and grow. Fend off the winter blues and pandemic fatigue by joining a session led by one of their professional associates.
“You are never too old to pursue a passion, especially in art,” says cartoonist and art Instructor Jennifer Snowden.
More Than Just Art offers classes for all ages and abilities. They include visual arts, music, yoga, meditation and mindfulness, and the healing modalities of Indian head massage, yoga massage, reiki, causal realignment, speech therapy, and. soon to come, Osteopathy. All sessions are by appointment or registration.
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