Pooria Taheri (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, SFU), Taylor Boostma (Microbiolog and Immunology, UBC)

Downtown Eastside Art Engagement Project

Team members: Taylor Boostma (Microbiolog and Immunology, UBC), Pooria Taheri (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, SFU)

Project Description

Engaging in community activities and artistic endeavors has been empirically demonstrated to exert a profound positive impact on the mental well-being of individuals. Research consistently indicates that participation in the arts can alleviate stress, combat feelings of isolation, and contribute to overall mental health improvement. Unfortunately, the Downtown Eastside (DTES) community stands as one of the most underserved and vulnerable populations in this regard. The individuals within the DTES community confront a myriad of challenges, including persistent isolation and various mental health stressors. The prevalence of mental health issues among its residents is alarmingly high, with significant disparities compared to the general population of British Columbia. 

With this project, we plan to utilize the transformative power of artistic expression by providing accessible and inclusive arts and crafts workshops within the DTES community. Beyond the therapeutic benefits, our initiative is dedicated to restoring a sense of community that has been eroded by the challenges faced by residents. Through collaborative creative activities, we aim to strengthen social bonds, reduce feelings of isolation, and create a platform for positive interpersonal interactions.

Our initiative is slated to unfold across various Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) locations, and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) community clinics situated in the heart of the DTES. Leveraging the provided spaces by our community partners VCH and DEWC, we aim to conduct a series of arts and crafts workshops. We plan to host four sessions per month over five consecutive months, totaling 20 sessions. In addition, we have connected with Enterprising Women Making Art (EWMA), a free art studio supporting local artists and artisans in the DTES. For this project, 25% of our workshops will be led by compensated community artists recruited from EWMA.