Curios for a cause

Arts, Culture & Heritage

Scholarships improve access to expressive arts education.
Janine Tougas’ therapeutic game, Fairytales – Our Tales. Photo courtesy of WHEAT Institute.

What do Red Rose Tea figurines – the iconic mini collectables in the shape of animals and nursery rhyme characters – have to do with therapy? Ask Janine Tougas; she invented a therapeutic game called Fairytales – Our Tales, because she sees the figurines as analogous to life situations in which we all find ourselves.

“Everybody’s run away from something, like the Gingerbread Man has; everyone’s fallen off some wall like Humpty Dumpty; and everyone’s been innocent like Red Riding Hood,” she says.

Tougas hopes the game will help people express themselves. To develop it, Tougas combined her personal collection of Red Rose Tea curios with therapeutic techniques, which she learned while studying at Winnipeg Holistic Expressive Arts Therapy (WHEAT) Institute.

WHEAT Institute offers holistic diploma and certificate programs in expressive arts and art therapy. Students generally have backgrounds in education, social work, psychology and fine arts. Through the Institute, students learn how to help others heal and grow through art.

To give back to the school and help those who want to study art therapy, Tougas is making 60 copies of Fairytales – Our Tales available to those who make a gift of $200 or more to WHEAT’s scholarships, which are endowed at The Winnipeg Foundation.

WHEAT Institute was founded by current Director Darci Adam, who had dreamed of bringing art therapy to the prairies for decades. After attending an art therapy conference in San Francisco when she was a teen, Adam knew exactly what she was meant to do. However, access to expressive arts training was unavailable in Manitoba at the time, and costs to train in the United States were prohibitive.

Adam decided to pursue a career in education, teaching drama and English. She eventually found herself working for New Directions, a charity providing services and programs to those who may not have the same opportunities as others. While there, Adam worked closely with girls who were traumatized and sexually exploited.

“Art made such a huge impact in giving them a voice and helping them to tell their stories while still being able to maintain their calm,” Adam says. “They really got connected with the art making and were able to have a stronger voice.”

Adam’s experience at New Directions influenced her to return to school, and she completed an art therapy diploma in the United States. While she was able to travel for school, Adam knew others would not have that ability. To offer a local art therapy option, Adam started a pilot program with the University of Winnipeg in 2014. This pilot eventually evolved into WHEAT Institute, which today is the only school on the prairies to offer programs in art therapy and expressive arts. The school uses a holistic approach to education that incorporates connections with history, nature, culture, and respect for Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Courses are now offered throughout the prairies with locations in the Winnipeg area, Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario. WHEAT also offers programming in remote or rural communities.

Though the art therapy education is now available on the prairies, financial barriers may remain for some. That’s why Adam created two scholarships, both of which are at endowed at The Winnipeg Foundation. The first is the WHEAT Institute Scholarship Fund, which will support art students studying at WHEAT. The second, named after Indigenous leader Elder Harry Bone, supports art students of Indigenous ancestry studying at WHEAT.

Providing financial support so students can experience all that WHEAT has to offer is something that resonates with Janine Tougas. She hopes that by making 60 copies of her game Fairytales – Our Tales available to anyone who contributes at least $200 to the scholarships, she will encourage more gifts to the scholarship funds.

“You buy a chocolate bar, you go to a dinner, but it doesn’t have that much to do with the actual fund you’re giving to,” Tougas says. “To me, [giving to the scholarship fund and receiving a copy of the game] it’s a double whammy in the sense that there’s money going to the Institute, plus you receive a tool that you can use with clients.”

Adam welcomes the opportunity to make attending WHEAT more accessible.

“We’re very excited at the possibilities and certainly hope to increase the number of students that can benefit,” Adam says. “We know it’s a process that gives back so beautifully.”

Learn more:

Fund: WHEAT Institute Scholarship Fund; Elder Harry Bone WHEAT Institute Award Fund
Cause: Arts, Culture and Heritage
Supports: Students enrolled at WHEAT Institute

To learn more about Causes, visit Find your BeCause

This story is featured in the Fall 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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