Two ‘free-spirited go-getters’ team up to bring art and art therapy to rural communities near Kemptville

art therapy Kemptville
Patricia Cameron, left, walks clients through art therapy classes at her studio in Kemptville.

Two like-minded artists — one a registered psychotherapist and the other a stay-at-home mom with a degree in interior design — are painting their way to a more expressive, colourful and therapeutic future, one work of art at a time.

Patricia Cameron and Rose Poirier met in January of this year, and what began as a series of co-created workshops has led to a shared art studio in Kemptville, where the women split their time and offer everything from workshops and classes, to art therapy and shared studio time.

Cameron, a registered psychotherapist from Kars, was educated in British Columbia and dedicated herself to working with people with anxiety, depression, stress and past trauma. After years of work in traditional talk therapy, Cameron began looking into more alternative methods of art therapy. She then studied at the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute, where she learned about the benefits and unique strengths of art therapy.

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“I had a master’s that qualified me in all areas of psychotherapy and am a registered psychotherapist, but I was so interested in how people can use art as a means to express themselves,” explained Cameron. “Clients seeking art therapy have often tried talk therapy and it’s hard for them to express themselves. Art therapy is a way for people to express themselves when words aren’t enough.”

Patricia Cameron
Patricia Cameron is a registered psychotherapist who offers art therapy classes from a shared studio space in Kemptville.

After deciding to move home to Ontario to be closer to family, Cameron began offering art therapy virtually, where clients would meet Cameron on Zoom with their own art supplies. But Cameron said she knew she wanted to offer services in-person, and that was when she reached out to Poirier.

Poirier, a mother of two boys and step-mother to two daughters, describes herself as a self-taught artist. With an honours degree in interior design at Algonquin College, Poirier has always felt drawn to the arts, but she says after graduation in 2003, she “happily traded in high heels and a drafting board for bare feet and a sweet baby to snuggle.”  

“I was primarily a stay-at-home mom when my children were little, working part-time at various disheartening jobs,” said Poirier. “I’ve always had a free spirit, a strong work ethic, and a desire to be an entrepreneur … but young mom-hood and mostly fear kept me from pursuing this fully.”

In 2016, Poirier opened Dreaming Heart Art Studio as a part-time studio, operating from her home. She began teaching paint night-style classes and occasional art classes to youth in her community. While she enjoyed the opportunity, Poirier said it was done “with great trepidation and self-doubt,” and, three years later, she went back to school to complete the office administration executive program at Algonquin.

When she graduated, Poirier said she “had an epiphany … a.k.a. a panic attack, thinking about job-hunting and resigning myself to a 9-to-5 office job.”

“I finally realized wholeheartedly that I would never be happy working for someone else, especially in a role that didn’t allow me to channel my creativity,” said Poirier. “But it seemed that at almost the exact moment I acknowledged this, COVID hit.

“Opening an in-person studio for children at that time just wasn’t feasible, so I went back to Algonquin for their business fundamentals certificate program with a goal of better equipping myself for life as a businesswoman — I was determined now — and riding out the pandemic.”

In 2021, Poirier converted her home basement into a studio space and reopened Dreaming Heart with full-time operations and a focus on teaching children. Shortly after, the studio transitioned to a mobile service in a “last-ditch” effort to navigate the pandemic.

“I started offering art classes from various local churches in an attempt to reach a broader market and enlarge my class sizes. I filled my classes, but I found it very challenging to run mobile classes,” explained Poirier. “I’m 44 now, and it was just so exhausting to move art supplies from venue to venue, to set up tables and take down chairs each evening. 

“Not to mention, it was very discouraging and uninspiring to not have the creative ambience of a stationary studio, especially since I had enjoyed the last one-and-a-half years with my own studio space … albeit at home,” she continued. “I was on the verge of giving up.”

That’s when Cameron came into the picture. In an effort to begin offering and co-facilitating adult art classes at local venues in Kemptville, Cameron reached out to Poirier and, before long, the two women began offering a series of four art workshops for women out of a church in Kemptville.

“We are both free-spirited go-getters and we just clicked,” said Poirier.

In May 2023, the workshops had concluded, but Poirier and Cameron began to discuss the possibility of a shared studio space. 

“She was ready to pursue full-time entrepreneurship and, as mentioned, I was feeling very discouraged with mobile classes,” Poirier said.

The studio space at Parish Hall on the Kemptville Campus is now home to both Painted Key, Cameron’s art therapy studio, and Poirier’s brick-and-mortar Dreaming Heart studio.

The businesses operate separately, with the days of the week split between Poirier and Cameron, and the space holds unique signage and art shelves for each.

“We can each have creative autonomy and freedom … The new studio offers each of us the independence to do our thing while also supporting one another emotionally and creatively.  Splitting the rent is pretty sweet, too,” explained Poirier. “My focus is still on teaching children, while Patricia leans towards creating with teens and adults. It’s great that, together, we cover all bases.”

Poirier and Cameron also collaborate on workshops for women, a nod to how they got their start, and meet regularly to discuss other art offerings. 

Cameron’s work with psychotherapy patients interested in art therapy has brought new resources and options for rural communities, which she says have traditionally not discussed or offered mental health resources as comfortably. 

Rose Poirier offers classes and workshops, focused on youth and children, at her Dreaming Heart Art Studio in Kemptville.
Rose Poirier offers classes and workshops, focused on youth and children, at her Dreaming Heart Art Studio in Kemptville.

“That’s why I’m here. Growing up in this area, there were no therapists that worked with teens, period, and there wasn’t anything like art therapy, which would have been amazing for myself as a teenager in a rural area,” explained Cameron. “Now I can give back and offer that.”

She’s been offering free groups at local youth centres, including in Kemptville and the nearby Osgoode Youth Centre. And although Cameron is registered to work with all ages and genders, she said she often works with women who are experiencing stress or mental health struggles and seek comfort and expression through art.

“It’s important for people to find meaning in their life, whether in a past experience they’ve been through or finding who they are and their purpose in life, art can help because it’s a visual representation,” she said  “It’s somatic, uses your senses, so it can help people become more embodied and help with nervous system regulation.

“I find talk therapy can be harder. It doesn’t hold traumatic experiences in as much of a gentle way.”

As a first-time business owner, Cameron said she is learning every aspect of her new venture as she goes.

“I definitely didn’t see myself doing this, so I’m learning everything for the first time, and it’s going pretty well,” she said. “I never thought I’d learn about taxes and all that, but it’s all part of the game.”

Meanwhile, the shared studio has provided a home for Poirier to work with both art and children, but, more than that, she said it creates space for people to create and express themselves. 

“I believe that to be human is to have creative potential and that we all have an inherent need and desire to express ourselves creatively … that it’s really essential to our well-being,” Poirier explained. “But it’s a vulnerable and emotional thing to create art because it can be both an expression of your innermost workings and artistic skill — or lack thereof. 

“My goal and my strength is to help my students develop creative confidence … and a love of creating so that they keep creating into adulthood. Certainly technical skill helps us grow as artists, but art is not always a physical representation of the real world. It’s also an expression of one’s feelings, personal perspective and imagination. And that can never be wrong and is always interesting, powerful and creative.”

At the Painted Key Art Therapy and Dreaming Heart Art Studio, Cameron and Poirier are working together to become a community staple, Poirier said.

“We can be Kemptville’s established little art studio … that cozy, whimsical, go-to spot for people to enjoy some creative fun and joyfully express themselves.”

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