“When you look at the network, the basic premise is about creating a welcoming space and time for people to get together to meet each other and have access to materials,” Timm-Bottos says. “While some workshops can be associated with art hives, mainly, it’s a non-directed space. The fact that it’s unprogrammed is what makes it really work.”
Timm-Bottos, who also served as Concordia’s Provost Fellow of Community Engagement, Fine Arts, coined the term “art hive” — although she’s quick to point out that the tradition has been around for ages. Prior to arriving at Concordia in 2010, she had been a pediatric physical therapist in Albuquerque, N.M., where she developed the first of the six art hives she began in North America.
Rachel Chainey, MA (art therapy) 2018, is the Art Hives Network coordinator and has been working with Timm-Bottos since 2010. She was part of the team that in 2011 opened La Ruche d’Art in the St. Henri district, the first art hive in Montreal. La Ruche d’Art is open twice weekly to the public in addition to three closed groups for special populations: cancer patients, seniors and veterans. It’s also a teaching site for Timm-Bottos’s Concordia course about how to start a community art studio.
Chainey, who co-founded the Montreal art hive Coop Le Milieu, says the vision is to have an art hive in every neighbourhood. “It’s an open-source model, so we want people to replicate it,” she says.
Taking an art therapy approach, the art hive focus is on process, not product. “Sometimes people will make art that has a profound personal meaning for them, that they might not make at home because they might not have the motivation or the supplies,” Chainey says. “When everyone else is creating and you see what people are making, you become inspired.”
Rebecca Duclos, dean of Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, feels the attention the university has paid to the art hive movement in recent years echoes a growing and more holistic interest in the health and well-being of the university community. She feels Timm-Bottos’s work has been instrumental in cultivating that interest.
“The amazing thing about art hives that is so simple and brilliant is that it brings the often private activities of therapy and public activities of creation together into a single space,” Duclos says. “It’s like a third space, this middle space where people who may or may not know each other are actually creating things together in a very open-ended, comfortable, non-competitive, communal atmosphere.”
This approach can be called “public practice art therapy,” another term dubbed by Timm-Bottos. “Often, we’ll hear about private practice art therapy, which happens in a closed office, in a confidential manner,” Chainey explains. “Public practice arts therapies bring the healing work to the public space.”