Open-ended Expressive Arts Studio open in Hamilton
“Expressive arts are about process, not product,” says Barb Lucas, founder of Open-ended Expressive Arts Studio in Hamilton.
The studio space, which opened last fall, is located at 201 Daly Avenue, across from Daly School. The space will be known to many as the former home of Montessori School, which operated there for 25 years.
Lucas said she was cycling past one day and spotted the empty building and it seemed as though this would be the perfect spot for an arts studio. Lucas told herself that if her labyrinth fit the space, she was “going to do it.” She says the landlord has been really nice to work with, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak when so many activities couldn’t take place and income was scarce.
Here people can “engage their creativity” through painting (which they call “unpainting”), mosaic, clay work and collage, as well as creative movement, yoga, drama, singing and poetry. According to the studio’s Facebook page, Open-ended is “a sanctuary for the expressive arts – the expressive arts are low skill and high intensity, which means anyone can participate and the experience will effect some change: changed mood, changed perspective, changed energy levels.”
According to Rebecca Lellek, a facilitator at the studio, “I want to create in all the ways people don’t think about… singing, sounding, poetry, writing. Each and every one of us is a poet and an artist.”
Both Lucas and Lellek are therapists who share an office suite in the Creamery Building in downtown Hamilton. Lucas is a psychotherapist and Lellek is a hypnotherapist.
“We’re interested in supporting people in community,” says Lellek. “Newcomers say it’s hard to get connected with others in the valley. The hope is that people will come together here and create.”
A large space on the south end of the building, filled with natural light from many windows, houses a labyrinth. Labyrinth walks are a regular activity at Open-ended. A labyrinth walk was held there after the capitol riot. “That was just very disturbing,” says Lucas. “The walk helped people to get grounded.”
On April 21, Lucas is facilitating an outdoor labyrinth walk for SAFE (Supporters of Abuse Free Environments) from 8:30 to 10 p.m. near Hamilton High School. This is in place of the traditional “Take Back the Night” event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
For Poetry Month, Open-ended held a “Playing with Poetry” evening at which people shared their poetry. “Singing Field” is held every other month as a way for people be “be vulnerable with their own sound together,” says Lallek. Open Studio is held every Friday with drop-in hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Barb Lucas came to the valley in 1993. She said she’s always been interested in community. As a young mom, she started a group for homeschooling mothers. She went back to school to get a Masters in Systems Counseling. She worked at Riverfront Mental Health Clinic before going into private practice in 2009 in Hamilton. She did her post graduate work in expressive arts, which, she says, “is so much about community. Being witnessed in community and building on one another’s process.” She has been bringing the arts to people for many years and is a co-founder of the Center for Spiritual Living.
Lellek met Lucas in 1996 when she had just started homeschooling her own children. She attended a school board meeting where parents were advocating for the rights of homeschoolers to take some classes at the public school and Lucas was there in support. “We have a deep connection,” said Lellek. She was later introduced to the field of hypnotherapy and has been studying it ever since.
“I love hypnotherapy,” says Lellek, “and I love all the ways we can be creative. Singing, painting, writing, poetry. I love seeing people come alive as things pour out of them and the realizations that come with that… it’s so moving.”
Other facilitators include Kris Bayer, Laura Garber, Pam Watts and Kiersten Owings, who handles the preschool program called “Free Range Art.”
Open-ended Expressive Arts Studio will hold a grand opening celebration on May 1st. There will be a pop-up May Day Market, with vendors of handmade arts by professional artisans and makers, music, food and beer. There is no admission and everyone is welcome.
“I want to create community here and foster resiliency and well-being,” says Lucas. “I want to help people uncover the aliveness that lies underneath the conditioned mind.”
“And simultaneously it’s connecting with others,” says Lellek. “A different conversation happens.”
“It’s contagious,” says Barb.
More information can be found on the website: openendedexa.com or by calling 406-531-2553.