Art can make you soar like birds

Earlier this month Cultural Canvas Thailand and Art Relief International were lucky enough to host seven students and one professor from a University in Utah, USA. The group are spending three weeks in Chiang Mai as part of a Global Studies Program which encourages students to visit a country outside of the USA to immerse themselves in a different culture and broaden their experience as global citizens.

The students had a very tight schedule whilst in Chiang Mai, and could only spare one day to spend with our team. It is generally quite difficult for CCT / ARI to do anything that demonstrates clearly the work we do with our partner organisations in such a short amount of time. We usually require even temporary visitors to undergo a solid orientation to our organisation, our mission and objectives, the population groups we work with and the methods in which we facilitate our workshops.  Given the issues our artists are experiencing, our primary consideration is always their wellbeing, and whether what we are doing with them is of benefit.

In this instance however fate intervened, and whilst considering what we could do with this group of American students beyond a typical information session, we received a phone call from the manager of Baan Nokkamin, a home for young girls who are either homeless or from unstable family situations, asking if we had the time and resources to help them paint a bright and happy mural on all four walls of their common room. This is a big project, but with extra hands we could potentially complete this in a day. We quickly spoke to the Utah student’s tour coordinator, who quickly agreed to assist us, and two weeks later all twelve of us crammed in to the CCT van and headed out to Mae Rim where the home is located.

After a quick introduction and ice breaker with the group and the twelve or so girls, we paired off the students with the artists and got to work by first drawing the mural on to the wall using led pencil, allowing for any mistakes to be quickly erased. The girls had requested birds, butterflies and other flying creatures, symbolising their new found hope and freedom through the support they received at Baan Nokkamin. It was no real surprise that some of the artists (and the American students) were gifted artists, and some of the drawings of birds, trees and flowers were very cute, typifying the feeling of the warm and welcoming home.

The final result, whilst possibly needing some very small and final touch ups (we did indeed run out of time, just), was absolutely beautiful, and the girls (and the manager) were very pleased. What was even more pleasing however, was the seamless way in which students, artists and ARI staff collaborated and worked together, sharing ideas, colours and smiles throughout the day despite the perceived language barrier. A big thank you to participating students from Utah, and of course an even bigger thank you to the staff and artists at Baan Nokkamin for hosting us and being so hospitable as always.

Dan Hales 

Hello from David, the New Volunteer!

Hello! My name is David, and I’m the newest ARI volunteer from beautiful Nashville, Tennessee, USA. I am heading into my second year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August, but until then, I’ll be spending my time with ARI in brilliant, bustling Chiang Mai! I am so excited to be here working with such passionate and incredible people who, even after only a week here, have shown me just how much they care and how powerful ARI is in touching the lives of people all throughout the city.

While I don’t consider myself a skilled visual artist, I’ve always been fascinated by and involved in the arts in one way or another. In high school and before I was heavily involved in theatre, taking many classes to further my knowledge about acting and the history of drama, even writing many scenes and plays myself, some of which were produced! I have always been a dancer as well, involved in my school’s dance concert and classes. After taking an art history class with an extremely incredible teacher, I became enamored by the visual arts and their power to inspire change and to express what words and gestures cannot.

I really resonate with ARI’s mission to give a voice to those who have one through art. I love creating and understand just how much of a release it can be for me, so I can only imagine how powerful it must be for people in the Chiang Mai area who don’t have many other means to express themselves. I can already tell that ARI is doing some great work here, and I can’t wait for the next seven weeks so that I can continue meeting and learning from fantastic people within both ARI as an organization and the groups we work with!


Postcard Exchange with Healing Family and ArtReach Studios

ARI puts the I in International with the start of a postcard exchange with Healing Family and ArtReach. ArtReach Studios is a nonprofit art studio that provides academic and integrated art instruction and practice to promote personal and professional development for artists with developmental disabilities in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. It was amazing to see the result of collaboration between ARI, ArtReach, and Healing Family. ArtReach Studios sent a youtube video of all the students saying Sa-Wa-Dee, which we watched with the artists at Healing Family.

Using a large map and an arrow, we looked at the vastness of the world. We found where Thailand was on the map. After exploring many continents in between, we located where San Francisco was on the map, which is where our friends from ArtReach were!

We drew and painted postcards filled with different aspects of Thailand. Healing Family Artists drew flags, their homes, flowers, Thailand's Post Office, hats, hearts, gates, and so much more.

The students sent their good wishes and hellos through the postcards. We used watercolor to paint the postcards. Healing Family artists said their hellos and talked about what they drew for ArtReach friends through video. We even made a video of everyone dancing to a popular Thai song.

Healing Family and ARI are excited to continue this international postcard exchange with ArtReach. It will be exciting to learn from each other and to connect with friends on the other side of the world through art, words, and even dance! 

Healing Family and ARI are excited to continue this international postcard exchange with ArtReach. It will be exciting to learn from each other and to connect with friends on the other side of the world through art, words, and even dance! 

To learn more about ArtReach Studios you can visit:

 https://www.facebook.com/ArtReachStudios or http://thearcsf.org/client-services/recreation-the-arts/artreach-studios/



Hello from ARI Volunteer Laura

Hi everyone, my name is Laura Frank, and I have joined the Cultural Canvas Thailand and Art Relief International team from my home town of Portland, Maine,USA.

I graduated from Portland High School in Portland, Maine in 2014 and will be attending Cornell University in Ithaca, New York this fall.  Throughout my schooling, I enjoyed taking art and ballet classes and for two summers, I volunteered at Head Start, a pre-school program, teaching art and dance to three and four year old. 

I am currently on a gap year and traveled through Peru and Ecuador for two months in February and March, volunteering, learning about South American culture, and having a great time.  After volunteering at Cultural Canvas, I will travel in Australia for a month and then return home where I will teach sailing at a camp until I head off to college.   

I am truly looking forward to participating in all aspects of this program. I was immediately drawn to ARI's goals and beliefs, which is why I applied to this great program. 

Thanks for welcoming me to this community, Laura.


The Fluff Boxx

Making a weekly visit to Hope Home is a lovely way to break up the week. Every Wednesday morning we drive out of the city to spend time with the children who live there and who have a variety of physical and mental disabilities. Because of their limited range of motion and their hindered communication, making art with these loving children gives them a voice. We also do a lot of sensory exploration with them to have fun while allowing them to develop some motor skills. This week was a highly explorative sensory project that we call the fluff box. 

Since I have been living and working in the ARI office house, I have sorted through a lot of supplies and realized that we have an enormous amount of stuffing/batting/fluff that is squishy and soft. The inspiration for this project came from another Hope Home workshop that involved a lot of different textures on plates, including fluff! We noticed that the children really liked to pull at it and hold it in their hands, so I decided I wanted to someday fill the mini ball pit at Hope Home with fluff and let the children explore the texture of... well laying inside of a teddy bear. 

When we arrived we said hello to everyone and began to remove all of the balls from the pit (which really got some attention) and began to fill it with bags and bags of fluff. I was really hoping the entire pit would fill to the top with this new substance and it did! Data found a new interest in the balls and sat inside the new container we had filled with balls, throwing them around and smiling a lot. He has been really brave lately and has been really interested in the activities we bring to Hope Home, so he was the first to really jump into the fluff. At first he sat very still but soon he had wiggled his way under and submerging himself as if he was in a big bubble bath. All that could be seen was his little head poking out as he swam and rolled around. 

Bow was apprehensive at first and wasn't sure what to make of the situation we had put her in. She liked touching it with her hands but wasn't sure about being surrounded! We pulled her out and he sat on the side in Sophie's lap, still playing with the fluff and watching Data and Yim. Soon she was laughing and ready to get inside to play. Yim thought that this activity was absolutely hilarious and was laughed hysterically. When her turn came she laid very relaxed in the fluff and giggled away, feeling the softness all around her. Nomchok, full of energy as usual began to jump from the side of the box into the pit!  

We tried the box on Sam and Joy as well, putting a blanket over the fluff so that they wouldn't become lost in the box. We got some different reactions. Sam was excited at first but soon became too overwhelmed and maybe a little claustrophobic so we removed him and comforted him, remembering that he usually prefers harder surfaces. For Joy we got some arm, leg and head movement and she seemed very at ease laying effortlessly in the box with a smile on her face.

Lastly, we wanted to get Wichai into the box! Rosie had noticed that while we were emptying the pit, he was already interested in the fluff and sat outside, rubbing a piece of fluff through his hands and on his feet. He did not want to come inside so we brought the fluff box to him. He got really excited when we put it in front of him and a huge smile spread across his face. We lifted him in and he became immediately relaxed, laying down and touching the fluff all around him. 

It was a morning full of laughter and cuteness and everyone had a lot of fun! It's amazing what a simple substance in large quantities can do to provoke curiosity and exploration and encourage fun and creativity. Thanks to all the volunteers for helping with the workshop and to Hope Home for allowing us to explore this substance so deeply with their children.

Wishing peace, love and curiosity to everyone


Dreamcatchers at Wild Flower Home

On Monday the 20th of April we made our biweekly visit to WildFlower Home. It was the first workshop after the Songkran Festival for the Thai New Year, so hanging out in the peaceful atmosphere with the lovely women there was a great way to ease back into the schedule. WildFlower Home is a home just outside of the city of Chiang Mai where single mothers in need can seek refuge and come gain their independence while being supported with their children. It's always wonderful to see them pop their heads into the workshop space to see what we are working on.

As I have a current fascination with dreamcatchers, I decided to show the women how to make one from very simple materials making them easy to recreate. We used some firm wire to create the circular shape, different colors of wool and string, and beads to create the dream catchers. We really wanted to use feathers for this project but they are hard to come by and quite expensive, so these dream catchers had a bit of a twist.

Of course the women caught on to the project really quickly and by the time I had finished the centre of mine (which I had only half completed in order to show them how to weave the wool) some women had finished their first and gone on to work on a second. There were many color combinations, sizes, and styles with the many different spools of wool and string. The women were very engaged during our time together and we left them some supplies so that they could continue working once we had left. They also talked about making some more and selling them! One of the women linked three hoops together, and I really wanted to see what the outcome would be. Hopefully during our next visit we will be able to see the products of their work.

All in all it was a lovely afternoon and time well spent. I hope that we will all sleep peacefully now. And although we didn't get the chance to finish the project, Pepo and I worked on ours the following day and we're happy with the way they turned out!
For a few beliefs on the dreamcatcher legend, check out this link!


All the best,



Paint Balloon Darts with the boys of Urban Light

Hello to all our lovely readers!

On Thursday 2nd April (I know - we can't believe it's April already either!), we had our fortnightly visit to Urban Light. Urban Light is a grassroots organisation which is dedicated to raising awareness regarding boys who are the victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. It is a safe centre where boys can come and receive education, medical care and support, with a commendable staff body working to empower the boys to live healthy and happy lives.

It was my last visit to Urban Light and I knew, as always, it would be a special afternoon. We set up the workshop on the top floor outside, and had ten boys participate! I first laid out a canvas, on which I had painted the outline of an umbrella. I explained to the boys that they would think about and discuss the things that they feel protected by, either individually or collectively. It could be anything from family and education, to - as I put in my example - a good cup of tea. They all worked around the canvas and painted what protects them as Thai and English words, and as pictures.Whilst this was going on, we set up the messy second part of the workshop... read on!

When the boys had finished filling the umbrella, and as the paint was drying, we sat and shared what they had written. What they were saying was so beautiful and positive; one boy drew a tree and a flower because nature protects us and it will always be there. Another feels protected by his family, and one boy explained that we have the past, present and future, but there are only so many minutes so we have to make the most of life, and knowing that makes him feel protected. This got a round of applause and it was a very poignant and wonderful moment; the boys were so supportive and respectful of each other. They also drew Urban Light's logo!

After thinking a lot of meaningful, positive thoughts and painting, it was really awesome to move on to the second part of the workshop where the boys could be a bit competitive and have some messy fun. We filled balloons with paint, and pinned them to the umbrella canvas, which we hung from a wooden board. The boys then played darts, and threw them at the balloons attempting to burst them making the paint fall down as rain! We had covered over the umbrella shape with a bin bag, so that it would not get covered by the paint rain therefore reinforcing that
 they are always protected from hardships by the positive aspects they've thought about. 

Playing darts with the boys was so much fun, (albeit a bit messy!), and it was great that so many of the boys were able to get involved and have fun. It was also awesome that we were able to play a game with them, which I think they really enjoyed. They were helping each other out and the volunteers and Urban Light staff alike all had a great time watching them!

At the end, we pulled back the bin bag to see the final result. It was a meaningful piece of art which they can hang in Urban Light and I hope they're proud of this collaborative piece.

This was the last workshop I will run with ARI, as it is sadly time for me to leave. I have had an incredible 3 months here and some incomparable experiences which will forever stay with me. I would like to thank all the ARI/CCT team for facilitating this opportunity for me to do something I truly care about, my lovely volunteer friends, and you readers, for spreading the love of art and what we do! I wish you all the best and can't wait to see what the next volunteers have in store.

Thank you all!

Lots of love,

Printing fun and sad goodbyes at Healing Family

Hello there..

Today was my last workshop after 6 months with ARI. We went to the Healing Family Foundation, and when we arrived, they gave us big hugs and were really excited.

This time we created mandalas only using printing material. I brought string, styrofoam, sponges, stamps and q-tips. In the beginning of the workshop we all went outside and collected some flowers and leaves that they could use for printing as well.

We all sat down in a circle after playing chilli chilli and started with the mandalas. They got so creative with the different materials and created beautiful colorful mandalas! It was really relaxed and they were totally focused. Some of them were so proud of their artwork, they kept showing us what they had created.

After we finished our mandalas, Rosie hung up a piñata outside that she actually prepared for another workshop but didn't use. We had a bamboo stick and some fabric to cover their eyes, and one after another they hit the piñata 10 seconds each. After a while it fell down to the floor and then it broke.
 We were all excited when it broke and ate the sweets that were inside. Then it was time to go inside to take a group picture and to clean up.

Finally, we said our last goodbyes. It was the last workshop for Rosie, Sophie and me and it was really sad especially because we had such a great connection with all the people at Healing Family and because they are all so lovely. Rosie and me started crying, and they kept hugging us.. It was really sad and also really hard to leave..We left 15 minutes later and hugged everybody one last time.

It was a really awesome last workshop and we will miss them so much!!!

All the best,


Creating collaborative artwork at Hope Home

Hello there!

This week has been my last time at Hope Home, an organisation for children with disabilities.
I decided to create a nice artwork with the kids. Therefore, I brought a big piece of paper, tape, poster paint and crayons. We put some tape on the paper in a nice pattern to cover some areas. Then we just let the kids doodle around on it and paint whatever they wanted.

All of them were really interested and everyone painted a small part. As Joy can not hold a paintbrush, we used her feet to paint on the paper. One girl was painting all the time without stopping, she is a really good artist!

When we finished it, we pulled off the tape and they were all happy about how it looked.

After that, we played with them in the ball bowl and with bubbles. Everyone was really happyand 
Tata even did a dance performance for everybody in the middle of the artwork.

Bow and Tata both loved the bubbles a lot and tried to catch them. And they really loved the ball bowl!

Then it was time for the kids to have lunch, it is always a lot of fun to watch them and interact with them while they eat.

When they were finished, we all said goodbye and gave our last kisses.

It was a great last workshop at Hope Home and I will definitely miss the kids a lot!

All the best,