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“The workshop was about the inner and outer expression – the things we want to hide on the inside. It asks the who, the why, the what. I discovered I am seeking all the time to discover the joy of life.” – Wendy Martin

Wendy Martin mask OPGarrison Green resident Wendy Martin was part of a project workshop developed by WP Puppet Theatre called View From the Inside: Courage Journey as part of the larger city-wide arts festival, This is My City. The project asked participants – including those at United Active Living’s Garrison Green community – to create mask-body puppets that express who they are.

Sage Wheeler, creative facilitator at United Active Living said the results from last fall’s workshops were revealing.

“This was an opportunity for residents to explore and express their identity using a process that is fun, playful and even silly,” said Sage. “One resident added grass and leaves to her mask, to represent her love of nature. The mask ended up looking like a wild woman—an idea she laughed at. And it brought up lovely memories of her hiking in the mountains with her family. Making a mask is more like play than it is like work and because of that, it does the job of self-discovery on an emotional level.”

Quenten Doolittle mask small OPThe workshop inspired Garrison Green resident Virginia Stewart to pen a poem about masks.

“I am searching for my identity,

It is hidden behind a mask.

Its presence prevents my growth—

Can I allow myself to let go?

Only when I remove the mask

will I be at ease with my image.”

Why masks? Wendy Passmore-Godfrey, the artistic director at WP Puppet Theatre explained, “The mask-body puppets express in an artistic way who the participants are, but also how they think the world sees them. I was intrigued to see the older adults, who have many years of life experience, choose a particular experience to relate through the masks they created. Others were more introspective – representing community and family.”

While the world sees the exterior of the mask, participants wrote their personal thoughts on paper, which were glued to the inside of their masks, hidden in small envelopes.

Doolittle masks at gallery event small OP“Letting somebody tell their own story is hugely important. It’s important artistically, but also so important on an emotional level. It creates a path for healing and because a person is in charge of that journey, it is a journey to empower,” said Sage.

In May, the gallery at Fish Creek displayed the masks created by residents and other Calgary artists. By sharing their experiences, everyone benefits from the connections. It is this community mindset that sets United apart.

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United is changing the conversation around aging. From our innovative United Minds (memory care) program to professionally staffed art studios and extensive creative programming, our communities offer more than you might expect. If you have questions or topics you would like us to cover in future blogs, let us know.