Get Excited for ARI's Exhibition!

Art Relief International’s Exhibition, “Imagine Your World” opens in ONE WEEK! What to expect? Here is the lowdown:

The opening starts at 7pm at the CMU Arts Centre on Nimman Rd in Chiang Mai. Our gallery space is upstairs in the main building. Take a stroll through the exhibition, viewing the artwork made in collaboration with our partner organizations. Get there early to enjoy free food sponsored by Chiang Mai Bread & MaiPhai, cakes donated by Bay’s CafĂ©, and more sweets from Rasta Mama Bakery- enjoy them while they last! Guests can also purchase ARI’s Signature Cocktail, wave to our viewers around the world watching on our live stream, watch a dance performance by the Thai Freedom House Traditional Shan Dance Troupe, listen to live music provided by North Gate Jazz Band, read postcards sent in from organizations and individuals around the world in the World Postcard Installation, and MEET our artists!

The story behind the artwork:
Imagine Your World will be featuring the artwork of ARI’s partner organizations in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These participants are part of various marginalized or stigmatized groups such as Burmese refugees and migrants, children and adults with disabilities, single mothers, Hill tribe children, incarcerated teens and mothers, among others. Art Relief International believes that all individuals have a human right to use creativity to express themselves. Join us to support these individuals as they bravely share their struggles and stories through art. Hear their voices as they share their vision for our world, their hopes and their dreams. Upon arrival, grab a program to read about each partner organization and how they created their piece in collaboration with ARI.

Partner organizations featured at the exhibition:

Baan Nokkamin, The Young Lions, Urban Light, Thai Freedom House, Hope Home, Healing Family Foundation, Wat Pa Pao School, Wat Muen Ngen Kong School, Wat Prachakasame Hill Tribe School, Wat Sri Supan School, Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Facility, Chiang Mai Boy's Juvenile Detention Center, Wildflower Home, Baan King Kaew Orphanage, and Starfish Home Foundation.

Here are some behind the scenes looks at the preparation that ARI’s volunteers are doing for the exhibition!

Most of the artwork that is displayed in our exhibition is for sale via silent auction, starting at very affordable prices. Support the work of ARI and allow us to continue providing creative and expressive outlets to these individuals in Chiang Mai. 

Months ago, ARI put out a Call for Artists to submit art postcards to us via mail to our worldwide project. On their postcards, we asked the artists, using any artistic method they choose, to visually tell us what they imagine for our world. We received postcards from Colombia, DR Congo, Australia, Turkey, United States, Canada, Cambodia, and more! Using their postcards, ARI is creating an piece to display these beautiful messages of hope and imagination for our world. Guests of our exhibition are encouraged to interact with the installation, turning over postcards to read about the artist and their vision. 

Want more? Step into the world of an ARI workshop as you interact with our Workshop Installation, see in-progress artwork, pick up a paintbrush and add something yourself, and see what its like to let your creativity run wild in a workshop with us! 

ARI volunteer Elle Hendriks has been putting together a collective piece for the exhibition, where she asks individuals to be photographed with a white board describing what they imagine for our world. At our exhibition, you will have the chance to step in front of the camera and write your wish/dream/vision- we will add you to the collection and post your photo on our Facebook! 

For those living far away that want to be involved in the evening (Dan Hales) we ask that you please check back in to our Facebook page, where we will post a link to view the exhibition on a live stream through YouTube. The Live Stream will be hosted by ARI volunteer Anna, who will take viewers on a tour of the artwork and interview our artists and guests!

Guests present at our event, please tag #imagineyourworldartshow and tag us on Facebook and Instagram, we want to see your photos of the event! 

With only 7 days left, ARI is in full swing preparing for this night to make it a memorable and inspiring one. We hope to see you all there! 

Be happy and make a difference,
Sarah Lovett 
ARI Art Director

Hello from Charlee

                                                      Sawatdee ka!

Hello, My name is Charlee, I'm 20 years old and I'm a new member of the ARI volunteer family here in Chiang Mai. I will be here for three weeks. I come from England and live in a small village in the countryside of Bristol surrounded by greenery and farm animals. Whilst the countryside is beautiful and I enjoy quiet walks, I like to spend a lot of my time traveling into the city or the nearest town to see what's up and meet with friends. 

Chiang Mai is totally inspiring, the food is gorgeous! The people are so warm and interesting and the city is a mixture of old and new which is so quirky and fun to be around.

I recently graduated from University where I studied graphic design, I have a real interest in colour theory, research and phycology. The dream is to have a career in Art Therapy so I am extremely excited to start volunteering with ARI. 

Already I am learning so much, including thai etiquette and culture, the language and the social issues which ARI help to raise awareness for. The workshops I have taken part in have touched my heart, everybody is so special and I hope that through the power of art I can encourage their creativity and share some happiness with them! 

I am so humbled to be here and a little nervous! But here goes!


A Party for Phil!

This morning's activity began with a play party to celebrate our friends at Hope Home. Hope Home is a place that provides care for children that have mental or physical disabilities. It is a wonderful environment for those in need of special care. The choice of our workshop's theme was centered around the fact that one of our friends at Hope Home, Phil, is soon moving to another facility that will further benefit their care. It's sad to say our goodbyes but we are so thankful for the amazing times spent together. And so, today we celebrate these beautiful moments in our lives through a small party!

   Before our party began, the volunteers helped create and paint party hats, blew up balloons, strung small flagged streamers, and gave happy hellos to our friends there.

    Alike most every visit to Hope Home, the volunteers and I were all greeted with the biggest smiles and best of energies from the kiddos there. Everyone seems to be doing well and were all so great to be around again. We will miss Phil very much, but trust that the people caring for him in his new home will give him just as much love as he has received at Hope Home over the years. To see a little more about Phil, check out the blog post here when he won ARI's Artist of the Month!

It was a great day spent playing and laughing all together. As always, a workshop at Hope Home left us overwhelmed with joy. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again soon!

    Take care,
                    Anna Marie

The Explorers of Chiang Mai

Over the past week and a half I was in Laos sorting out my visa, so I was so super excited to come back to Chiang Mai to see all the students again.

The Young Lions are such an energetic crazy bunch. I really cannot begin to describe or explain how happy they make me.

After seeing a lot of wonderful things in Laos I wanted to inspire the Young Lions with my travels and therefore transformed them into explorers.
Who doesn't love a treasure hunt ?! I have so many amazing memories of Easter, searching the garden for chocolate eggs.

Everyone knows that binoculars are essential for every explorer. So we got creative with recycled materials and created some super cool, colourful binoculars out of two toilet rolls.
Attach a piece of wool to either side so you can hang it around your neck and Viola! you're an explorer !

Pre-workshop I had bought candy for the students which we hid high and low in the garden at the office. When everyone had binoculars around their neck the treasure hunt kicked off! They ran off into different directions in search for the candy. Climbing trees, with their arms in the fish pond, under the table. Anywhere and everywhere. When their pockets were full they got to enjoy a delicious treat!

Both the kids and the volunteers left the office that day with a huge smile on their face. Even though I
think the volunteers were kind of guttered they didn't get to partake in the treasure hunt and search for candy....

xo, Elle


Grow Your Garden

    Hello all!

    Today,  I led my first ARI workshop and I am so happy to tell you all about it! The workshop was held at the lovely Thai Freedom House. Thai Freedom House is an arts and language community center that assists individuals of Thailand's minority groups and Burmese refugees. The participants of the workshop were ages that ranged from seven to fifteen years old and all we're excited to begin the activity. Currently, the participants have art journals that they add to weekly during workshops and, as well, fill up on their own time. This week's art journal entry was centered around the word "grow." With such a word as inspiration, the participants were asked to self reflect and create a garden that grew unique plants that represented things of meaning they held in their life. The plants could range from a tree that grew bicycles to a bush that played music. After explaining the concept and steps of the activity, the participants began growing their gardens through the use of their creative minds and watercolor paints. First, the participants drew one's garden space within their journal and the plants on a separate piece of paper.

    Once everyone had finished drawing out their garden spaces and plants, the participants began to watercolor paint.

    After water coloring, everyone began to cut out their plants and pasted them into their gardens.

     What a great experience to watch their amazing works of art come to life. All in all, the workshop was a great success! It was incredible to see everyone be so present and attentive towards what they were creating. All of the participants had filled their gardens with plants they hope to see grow and had smiling faces from the beginning to the end of the workshop. After leading my first ARI workshop, I was affirmed that this was the best program for me to be a part of. I am so humbled that I am working with such a positive and enriching program here in Thailand. This week's workshop has left me grateful and excited for what's next to come with Art Relief International. I'm looking forward to sharing again soon of upcoming workshops. Thanks for reading!

    Take care,

        Anna Marie


Colorful Paper Collages!

Today at Baan King Kaew, an orphanage in Chiang Mai, we designed a workshop where the children made very colorful, beautiful collages out of pre-cut shapes and crepe paper balls.

We started to scrunch a lot of colorful scrap paper into little balls. The children all helped each other by changing colors between them and sharing their scrunched balls. And of course the volunteers were happy to scrunch as well!
Once they had enough to begin, the children used glue to begin collaging onto their shape. All of the pre-cut shapes were different animals or flowers and the children could pick their favorite!

Some of the kids were so passionate with gluing, that they nearly forgot to put some scrap paper on it, before it dries.
But in the end, every child had a very colorful elephant, flower or butterfly, which they showed everyone full of pride!

Hannah :) 


Theatre Sports with Young Lions… plus Monkeys, Penguins and Kangaroos

The theatre, or creating through acting, is a fantastic way to develop and use one's imagination, to learn how to collaborate and work off other people, to develop confidence and of course to have fun. In a way, this sums up my entire journey with Art Relief International. What better way to end my last Young Lions workshop than by facilitating a series of Theatre Sport games with the group, getting them to use their bodies, and minds, in creative ways.

For those of you who don’t know, Young Lions is a workshop hosted at the ARI Office for children who live or frequent this area of the Chiang Mai Old City. Its aim is to get local kids involved in the arts, and in turn promote ARI to passersby. 

Due to its close proximity, much of the Young Lions who attend currently are students at Wat Muen Ngeng Kong, a local Temple School that ARI also does outreach workshops with. The kids are therefore good friends already, and love to ‘muck around’, so getting them comfortable with acting silly was not going to be an issue.

We kicked off with some movement games, including Figure Eights and Pass Clap, which they had a good laugh with. Circle of Knots proved tricky, the first tangle seemingly impossible to undo. The second was manageable, but only after untangling some knots that Niran had forcibly created with his typical exuberance :). 

 Objects was rather humorous as two groups tried together to create typical Thai images using only their bodies including a Tuk Tuk and Temple. And our movement sing-a-long to a remixed version of B-I-N-G-O was a huge hit, as we threw our bodies around whilst singing with our tongues out.

The workshop ended with a game of Zoo Party, with each participant being given an animal to act out, dancing as if they were at a party at the Chiang Mai Zoo, whilst Anna walked around guessing who had been invited. Otto’s monkey, Jo’s Kangaroo and Mike’s frog were pretty funny, but a performance by our very own Pegasus-Unicorn, or Pega-corn, was definitely the highlight.

 It was an emotional end to one of my favourite workshops. The creativity of the boys and girls who have attended throughout the last three months is truly inspiring, and exciting to watch as they grow in confidence. I will certainly miss them, but cannot wait to return some day to witness how much further they have grown. I don't doubt they will be very 'tall'.


3 Months, 20 Volunteers, 18 Organisations, 90 Workshops, 6 Banana Rotis… and Infinite Memories

Wow, how does one sum up all the experiences, emotions and life lessons one goes through over three months when volunteering with Art Relief International (ARI). In a word (or two), perhaps life-changing, but that doesn’t even begin to summarise what has been a truly unforgettable journey, filled with so many powerful moments that have challenged and inspired me. So here are a few more words…

ARI and its parent organisation Cultural Canvas Thailand (CCT) are unique volunteer organisations. Unique in that they are locally born and managed, employing both local and international employees and volunteers. Unique in that they are independent, with no hidden agenda except to assist marginalised groups across Chiang Mai and Thailand without judgement or preconceptions. And unique in their sustainable approach to volunteering, in terms of the experience they provide volunteers and partner organisations, using outreach frameworks and principles that avoid client attachment once volunteers leave the organisation or program.

I have been truly astounded by the level of output and quality of work produced by ARI / CCT and the value this work has in the lives of the participants who access these workshops, as well as the organisations whom ARI / CCT partner with. Organisations who also provide much needed support, care and education to Chiang Mai’s more disadvantaged communities.

Personally, volunteering with ARI has not only confirmed for me what I want to be pursuing as a career, which is to use drama, movement and performance in an outreach format to help positively transform lives and communities from both a therapeutic and community development perspective. It has also provided me with the confidence to pursue this, whilst challenging me enough to help me understand that this journey will not be an easy one, but it will certainly be rewarding.

I won’t quickly forget the relationships I developed with some of the kids from the Temple Schools, particularly Wat Muen Ngeng Kong and Wat Pa Pao, the wonderful Young Lions, the resilient children from the orphanages and homes including Baan King Kaew and Starfish Home, and the incredible talent I witnessed at Thai Freedom House. And then there is Hope Home… how can one not be moved by the kids at what is a truly beautiful, warm and welcoming home for children with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. What a privilege it was to work with these kids weekly.

I must also mention the amazing staff at CCT / ARI. From CCT’s incredibly passionate and diligent Director Wad to our always reliable and friendly driver Clo. And of course ARI’s super inspiring Art Director Sarah and her amazing right-hand Project Coordinator Pepo. Your tireless commitment to Chiang Mai’s most marginalised, and your passion for the work you do is nothing short of inspirational, and has certainly provided me with the drive to pursue a similar career path. Thank you for this life affirming opportunity. You have taught me the true healing power of art.

And finally, to my fellow volunteers. By the time I board my plane I will have said hello and goodbye to twenty of you, and every single one of you has taught me something, be it great or small. And there have been many enormous teachings, I promise you. We have come from ten different countries, bringing with us a wealth of cultural and individual experiences that have created a distinctly international melting pot of a volunteer house. You have challenged, inspired and in the end truly impacted me as an artist and a human being, and I thank you for this. It’s not goodbye, but rather see you again during our next adventure.

This has no doubt begun to sound like a bit of a promotional tool. So be it. If you are seeking to gain experience in volunteering, art outreach / therapy, NGO project work or simply experience a profound cultural exchange, I cannot recommend CCT / ARI more highly. It has affected me in ways I didn’t expect, and affirmed many of my goals and values to a level I could only have wished for. I can’t promise it will do this for everyone, but for those who love a cultural challenge, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

And so it is goodbye to CCT, to ARI, to Chiang Mai and to Thailand for the time being. But certainly not forever. I have fallen in love with this little city, and I plan to come and stay here for an even longer time next year. Until then, Sawat-dee khop… and kop khun khop. Dan x