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How Important are the Arts to our Mental Health?



Part 2 – Covid and the Arts – How much have you used art over the last few weeks?  Music, Movies, Paint-by Number, Knitting, Writing?  How has the arts assisted you in your struggle for mental health during these stressful times?

While those who work in the creative fields are all too painfully aware of how serious this is for them and for the industry they also recognize how vital the arts are to our sanity during these stressful days and like all true entertainers, they continue regardless of the problems.  This is the reason “the show must go on” was written.  In times of stress and uncertainty, art and all that it offers is the key to lowering our stress level which in turn improved our general health.

“When asked how important the arts are during these times of stress, the artists all shared the idea that the arts are the very thing that keeps us all sane.

We may find an appreciation for it now more than ever”, says Ulee Mascheykh.   “Now is a good time to perceive art (listen to music, buy a painting, watch musicals or read a good book) but also to make art.  Research has shown the health benefits of art on out mental health. So if we can find an appreciation of art in all its scope we learn its value now and in eternity.”

Dancer and choreographer,  Natasha Gorrie reminds us all that the arts are important to managing stress.

I have students that tune into my Instagram live who are nurses.  They tell me that my classes really help them de-stress from a very stressful workload in general but especially at times like these.  Dance helps with mental health and to get away from problems momentarly in a healthy positive way. Dance helps me express what I have no words for.  It makes me feel a part of something greater than myself.”

It isn’t just about de-stressing.  There is an economic reality to the arts.

The Surrey Board of Trade is one of the few chambers of commerce/boards of trade that consider the arts as an integral part of the city’s economic development strategy.  An investment in the arts even during these times is integral to ensuring our community’s culture thrives and survives.  I have been very impressed with the online music concerts by our local musicians, for example.  We all need to experience music, arts that will heal our soul.”

A strong arts sector is an economic asset that stimulates business activity, attracts tourism and expands the work force and tax base. The arts have been shown to be a successful and sustainable strategy for revitalizing cities.  And after COVID-19, Surrey will need some revitalization.

The arts foster physical, mental and emotional health, aiding recovery processes and contributing to well-being.

Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade


Penmar Community Arts Society founder,  David Geertz points out..

In this time of Covid-19, arts are bringing people together in a different way, and providing distraction, enjoyment and comfort in a difficult time. In our organization, arts and music have been a way to bridge communication and collaboration between businesses and performers and have opened dialogue between artists, venues and other businesses within communities. Local live shows can provide entertainment and culture and are a way to grow community-based businesses and stimulate local spending.”


Michael Charrois knows only to well have the arts impact the young students he works with.

We can see the importance of entertainment and storytelling when we’re all trapped inside in need of diversion and education. I think we will come out of this crisis with a continued love and respect for recorded, streamed, broadcast and on line entertainment. Film production will have to adjust to working in smaller groups and performers may have to prove their vaccination history, if/when a vaccine for this pestilence becomes available, in order to work. With any luck, I have hope that I can work performing in the film industry.

Young People’s Opera Society

Patricia Dahlquist of the Young People Opera Society says,

“There is an abundance of evidence that the arts are essential during trying times. Music, Theatre, Dance, Painting, Sculpture and Fabric arts are sources of comfort and allay the debilitating effects of the stress disorder associated with widespread emergencies and global upheavals.  The very act of expressing private emotions through manifesting any art form expiates fear.”

Todd Davies is a local writer and independent film maker who believes in escapism as a tool to help deal with real stress.

“The arts are always important no matter what the circumstances even more so in times like these. The arts ,whether it be music, movies, poetry, literature etc, provide us a level of solace, escapism, and joy. It can lift our spirits if only briefly and restore us in the face of such calamity as we face right this moment.”

Perhaps we can all take a moment to thank our favourite artist, musician or writer for the gift they have given us during this time.  The world over, we turn to music for comfort, film for distraction, books for education and escapism.  When we were told to stay home, we bought toilet paper, liquor and ART.  Tons of it.  From online subscriptions to magazines to music to Netflix and other streaming devices, we devour art like the snacks we are living on and why?  Because it is essential to our mental well being and we need to thank the artists for that.

Covid19 has changed the face of business, non-profit, volunteerism and the arts for good. In our next instalment artists talk about how this has changed the industry, some say for the good and some say in a negative way.  

Arts groups and artists have had to adapt in order to rise to the challenge of this time.  In each their own way, they have taken this time to find ways to reach new audiences, rethink their business model and create in a new way.

As an independent film maker, Todd Davies has found ways to fill his days.

 “Gratefully some aspects of the artistic endeavours can be done electronically for example: some pre-productions details can be handled over the internet so at least when this situation blows over we can get back to the creativity as soon as possible.  Also writing is something I can do anywhere, so I retain some sense of creativiety, thank god.”

Patirica Dahlquist says

“The Young People’s Opera Society, like many other groups have stepped up in creative ways to reach out to their members and supporters with emails, What’s App and Zoom.  Using these online tools, groups continue to work on rehearsals and private sessions.

While many productions have been cancelled, many organizations, with great optimism, are postpoing productions until the Summer or Fall”

Sami Ghawi works with a number of musicians and is always looking for an opportunity to find a new audience.

Now more than ever people need to be entertained as they are essentially stuck at home trying to find things to do, watching Netflix and browsing their social feeds.  Musicians and artists need to take full advantage of this opportunity.  Days after we cancelled all live entertainment, we made a post on our socials encouraging all artists in our online community to make as much content as possible and share it with the world.  We’ve already released multiple videos online in the last two weeks and have a packed schedule of collaboration videos coming up with the artists we work with.  We also moved our Sunday Night Jam ito a live stream on Facebook, and our patron community was very thankful that we’re still here for them.  As an artist development company, we also help many aspiring artists develop their musicality and music business. We are very grateful that we’ve been able to convert all our sessions online.”

Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s Creative Director, Ellie King is still facing an uphill battle.

“We will continue to plan for next season, but right now it is completely up in the air as to whether or not that can proceed. Given the huge loss we have sustained and the uncertainty of venues being open it is extremely stressful trying to walk the line between being prepared and spending money that might not be able to be recouped. For now, we are proceeding as if the season will go ahead as usual.”

Natasha Gorrie also remains optimistic as she reached out to the people she knows in her arts community

“Talk to leaders in other communities to see what their small business plans are. Try to come up with multiple strategies for whatever outcomes are to come of all off this. I now provide free dance classes online to keep people dancing and in spiritsas well as to keep brand awareness.”

Ulee Maschaykh from the Semiahmoo Arts Society can find  positives.

“The COVID19 crisis challenges us to think differently.  To come up with sophisticated solutions to bring the arts to the public in different ways, such as online.  Maybe there is a blessing in disguise: by going virtural we open up the artwork of our members to a broader audience, even international.

In his 1935-essay, Walter Benjamin noted how the visual arts is not able to be received as a simultaneous collective by everyone at once.  I believe, through going online and showing at shows and gallery openings on the internet that notion will change.  It will bring people closer.  After all, art is primarily about content and meaning.  Imagine a Vancouverite can view Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the same time as someone in Zimbabwe or New Zealand.  How exciting is that?”

So whether it be dance or writing or live theatre, artists, being the resilient creative thinkers that they are, are already working on finding a way to break through.  For many this is the biggest challenge they have faced in their career and it can be discouraging.  A word of encouragement to your favourite artist would go a long way.  Contact somebody today and remind them of how much their artistic contribution enhances your life.

Next – Part Three – Like our lives, the Arts have changed as a result of COVID 19.  Here artists predict the future.  Will be attend festivals again? Live theatre? Will Life go back to normal and what will normal look like for us and our relationship to the arts?

Shara Nixon loves to hear and repeat the stories of people’s lives and cultural viewpoints. She enjoys deep conversations and people who hold strong viewpoints. In her day job she is a social worker for business owners, helping them meet their goals. As an insomniac, she writes at night to clear her head. She is punctuationally challenged and uses too many !!!. She also believes in creative spelling as an art form. Her super-power is in connecting like-minded people and communicating with an intent to learn instead of respond. She writes about relationships, business savvy, online dating, finance and general things that piss her off. Shara believes that key to peace is education and connection!!!

Arts and Entertainment

Feed Your Inner Artist with Surrey Art Gallery’s Art Takeout Courses!



Surrey, BC – Explore your creativity this summer with Surrey Art Gallery’s new Art Takeout courses. These six-week hands-on, interactive programs are a fun way for all to try new mediums and artistic techniques at home. Participants pick up their course materials from Surrey Art Gallery, and each box includes art supplies, links to video lessons, and the opportunity to join in a live online session, to share artwork created.

There are two Art Takeout courses to choose from. Drawing in the Field focuses on learning and practicing drawing skills, including en plein air (in the open air drawing), art journaling, sketching, blind contour, multiple perspectives, and more! This six-week course, led by artist educator Alexandra Thomson, runs from July 20 to August 24, costs $15.

Hand Building with Clay! reimagines the sculptural possibilities of clay. Inspired by contemporary ceramic art, participants learn a variety of techniques including pinch, coil, and slab construction, as well as surface pattern techniques with artist educator Amelia Butcher. This six-week course runs from July 27 to August 31 and the $35 cost includes firing and glazing as well.

“For all ages and abilities, Surrey Art Gallery’s Art Takeout courses invite you to try new artmaking techniques while having fun with family and friends during the summer,” says Alanna Edwards, Surrey Art Gallery Engagement Facilitator. “It’s a way to still feel connected to each other and the artmaking community during this time.”

“I love the feeling of being outside, with the sky, the earth, and all the plants,” says Drawing in the Field artist educator Alexandra Thomson. “Drawing outside is an amazing feeling. I feel connected to the thing I’m drawing. It’s a really careful observation that has an almost meditative quality.”

Art Takeout boxes can be picked up from July 13 for Drawing in in the Field and July 20 for Hand Building with Clay at Surrey Art Gallery. To register for either program, phone the Call Centre at 604 501 5100, or sign up online at

About Surrey Art Gallery | Internationally recognized for its award-winning programs, Surrey Art Gallery, located at 13750 88 Avenue in Surrey, is the second largest public art museum in Metro Vancouver. Founded in 1975, the Gallery presents contemporary art by local, national, and international artists, including digital and audio art.

Its extensive public programs for children through to adults aim to engage the public in an ongoing conversation about issues and ideas that affect our communities and to provide opportunities to interact with artists and the artistic process. Admission is free. Surrey Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the City of Surrey, Province of BC through BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Surrey Art Gallery Association.

In response to the temporary closure of our exhibition and artmaking spaces, Surrey Art Gallery presents Art Together, a series of online programs that explore art and artists in the community, spark the imagination, and celebrate the ways that art can impact our lives. Although the Surrey Arts Centre is temporarily closed, Surrey Art Gallery is open online. Visit us virtually, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Arts and Entertainment

Stewart Farm to Offer Guided Outdoor Tours



A New Way to Experience the Heritage Site

Surrey, BC – Starting July 14, Historic Stewart Farm will offer guided outdoor tours of the popular heritage site. The new modified service follows new protocols to ensure community safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Visitors must pre-register, with groups limited to 10 people. Tours of the historic site will be available Tuesday to Friday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:30pm.

Registrations times will be available every thirty minutes with the final tour beginning at 3:00pm. Guests are required to pre-register online with their MySurrey account. Registration opens July 6.

“With people staying safe and closer to home this summer, I encourage Surrey residents to get out and explore all that Surrey has to offer,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. “Historic Stewart Farm’s heritage tours are a great option for families to discover our local history and enjoy some time outdoors.”

Highlights of the 30-minute outdoor tour include the 1894 Farmhouse, Pole Barn, heirloom gardens, root cellar, boat building and former threshing shed. Tours will lead visitors around the picturesque site, exploring the grounds and the history of the area, the Stewart Family, and the farm itself.

Exclusively outdoors, visitors are advised to dress for the weather to maximize their tour experience. A visit through the heritage Pole barn will be included, marked with a one-way route to ensure physical distancing. All other buildings will be closed. Historic Stewart Farm is a one-of-a-kind heritage venue located at 13723 Crescent Road within Elgin Heritage Park, along the Nicomekl River. Entrance is free.

For more information, call 604-591-4627. or visit
Follow the Farm on Facebook at @HeritageSurrey or on Instagram at @StewartFarmBC.

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Arts and Entertainment

Big Splash is Back for Another Hot Season – Social Distancing Style




TSAWWASSEN, BC – Metro Vancouver’s favourite water park is reopening for the season on Canada Day, July 1st, 2020! The 7-acre resort-inspired park features 13 body and tube waterslides for kids and adults of all ages. Due to COVID-19, the park will operate at 35% capacity with extra safety precautions to ensure everyone can enjoy their summer, safely, 7 days a week.

This year, Big Splash has made several important changes to ensure their staff and guests can feel safe while enjoying the sunshine and water slides. They will be conducting temperature checks and screenings on all employees and guests at entry. They have added hand sanitizing stations, outdoor showers, and created one-directional walkways and paths to waterslides.

There will be limits on how many people can be in a pool and hot tub at once. And this year, families will be allowed to bring in 1 cooler of food and drinks (no outside alcohol allowed). To ensure admission, guests are encouraged to book a cabana or table online for a specific date and admission tickets in the same transaction.

This is the perfect summer venue for birthday parties, family reunions, and corporate events. With a full-service cabana and tent rentals available, you can sit back and relax as you and your loved ones have fun. Big Splash offers a fully licenced bar and patio, with delicious summer-inspired cocktails and ice-cold beers on tap!

With two eateries available on site you can enjoy summer favourites made in-house with burgers, pizza, salads, poutines, fish & chips and more! “2020 has been a difficult year for many, and we hope that Big Splash can make a difference. With safety in mind, we plan to open our water park this year at 35% capacity to allow families to enjoy the sunshine and have a break while working together to flatten the curve.

We want to thank our first responders for the hard work they have been doing and want to assure our guests that we will do everything to keep our facility safe for everyone.”- Tamara Tam, Director of Operations. To learn more about the safety precautions, directions to the park, hours of operation, ticket information, ride information and more, please visit our website

About Big Splash Water Park | Owned and operated by Executive Hotels & Resorts since 2017, Big Splash Water Park is a Metro Vancouver favourite, located in sunny Tsawwassen. Offering endless fun and water activities for people of all ages, the 7-acre resort-style park has 13 water slides to choose from.

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Arts and Entertainment

Surrey Libraries Launches Takeout Service



Patrons can order books, DVDs, Summer Reading Club materials, and more.

Surrey, BC – Surrey Libraries has announced the launch of contactless Takeout service at six branches serving Surrey’s town centres. City Centre, Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, and Semiahmoo library branches will be providing the service starting June 26.

“Whether you pick up a book to enrich your personal knowledge, for your scholastic studies, or for the pure joy of reading, I know the act of holding and opening up a new book is one of the great and simple pleasures of life,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Not everyone likes reading on digital devices and many people in our community rely on our libraries for books for themselves and their children. I am delighted that Surrey Libraries will be offering this takeout service, starting just in time for children to join in on Summer Reading Club activities.”

“The response from our community through the Resuming Library Services Survey was clear,” said Neelam Sahota, chair of the Board of Trustees of Surrey Libraries. “People are eager to borrow physical materials like books and DVDs and return the items they’ve had at home since March. However, people also told us that they’re not ready to come back into the branches for programming or browsing just yet.”

To access the service, library members can either call one of the six participating branches or fill out an online form at Patrons will be able to pick up their holds and return items when they arrange a pickup time.

Borrowers will also enjoy an extended due date of September 8 on newly borrowed materials. All materials returned to the library will be held in a 72-hour quarantine before being put back into circulation. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel; therefore, the 72-hour quarantine will provide ample time to ensure that trace amounts of virus on books and other materials are eradicated.

With regard to reopening branches, the Library is taking a phased and cautious approach. “The health and safety of our staff and patrons is our top priority as we implement our reopening plans,” said Surinder Bhogal, Chief Librarian. “We have added safety protocols such as physical distancing, quarantining materials, proper hand hygiene, frequent surface sanitization, and installing plexiglass barriers at service counters.

We remain committed to providing as much service as possible. We’ll evaluate the Takeout service and may extend to other branches, and we’re working toward reopening some library branches after Labour Day.”

For people who enjoy digital materials, Surrey Libraries has tripled the number of eBooks and eAudiobooks ordered each month, substantially increased the size of the eSuperloan collection, and launched weekly titles available without holds for quicker access to new reading material and popular titles.

For more information, visit

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Arts and Entertainment

Summer is Back at Arts Umbrella



Due to COVID-19, our original Summer Camp schedule was made obsolete. This, however, did not stop us from continuing to evolve and adapt our curriculum to new learning environments. Our new summer offerings include a mix of online learning and in-studio classes that accommodate new safety measures as approved by the Province of BC. Our classes follow the same excellent curriculum and high-quality instruction that Arts Umbrella is known for. Below is a snapshot of our offerings.

Art & Design

From Drawing & Painting, to Mixed Media, to Cartooning and Comic Creation, we’re offering a mix of small in- person studio classes and online programs to provide young people with visual arts skills and techniques, as well as inspire new levels of creativity. We are also offering an online Drawing & Painting Intensive for teens (13-19) in August. In this program, artist-instructors will guide students in independent research into artists and history.

From that, inspiration and knowledge will inform students to create original works at home during online classes. Participants will also investigate the ideas in their work, while refining fundamental skills such as composition, design, and colour theory. In conversation with their peers, students will also explore and practice constructive critique.


We have reduced class sizes for our Junior and Teen Summer Dance Intensives. As always, this program features classes in ballet, character, modern, repertoire, and jazz with special guest instructors and Arts Umbrella faculty. These Intensives offer young dancers a comprehensive way to maintain fitness and prepare for regular classes in September.

Theatre & Music

From Acting to Musical Theatre, and Shakespeare to Puppetry, our Summer Session Theatre & Music classes give young artists a strong foundation for further classes. We also offer a number of in-person and online Intensives in for more experienced students. Whether students are interested in acting for the stage or film and TV, these programs can help bring their skills to the next level.

This year, we’re also offering some new online programs for students who want to further their singing and musical theatre skills: Song Study, Voice Lessons, and Curbside Cabaret.

Arts Umbrella is back for Summer, with classes starting July 6, 2020. Registration is now open for online, outdoor, and small in-person classes at:

Over the past few months, Arts Umbrella has been testing innovative ways to bring arts education to young people through online programs. This summer, children, youth, and teens can take online classes in Art & Design, and Theatre & Music. In addition to the online experience, Arts Umbrella will also be open for some small in-person classes in a safe studio environment.

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