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Craft Center and Student Wellness partner for “Happy Hours”

November 17, 2023

Over the month of November, the Craft Center—in collaboration with Student Wellness—has started a new initiative to make this critical period of the semester more fulfilling by establishing Friday “Happy Hours”: mindful art projects that allow students to explore a new side of campus—and, its leaders hope, themselves. The last event will take place today at 2 p.m. and will focus on Japanese Journal Bookbinding.

After a long week of classes, clubs and other commitments, many students reach their Friday afternoons feeling exhausted and untethered. “Happy Hour” has been a series of three Friday events that have included “Watercolor Play” on November 10 and “Nature on Pots” on November 3.

According to Emma Gould, assistant director of student activities, events like “Nature on Pots,” in which students walked through nature collecting items to stamp into slabs of clay, are meant to push students out of their comfort zone.

“We really wanted to focus on getting people outside and moving around in nature and then combine that into an art class as well,” Gould said. “And it’s also really cool that we can get really creative and find ways to combine all sorts of wellness opportunities like going for a walk outside and then doing pottery.”

Kate Nicholson, assistant director of student wellness, spearheaded the initiative. “Happy Hour” is meant to utilize a window of time easily accessible to many students once classes have ended.

“It’s a very, hopefully, easy entry point … just show up to the Craft Center,” Nicholson said. “One of the benefits of that space and moment in the week is that we are diffusing the excess.… We’re having some space to breathe, to slow down, to even consciously or subconsciously process and digest a lot of the activity and output of the week.”

According to Nicholson, the “Happy Hour” events provide an outlet for students to decompress in a way that may be unfamiliar.

“You’re interacting in your own mind and body in a very different way than most of the other very cognitive intellectual engagements [at Bowdoin],” Nicholson said. “We can interrupt the overdrive of the thinking mind and then just get into a more creative side, even if we don’t feel like we’re good at it.… The point is just to be in process or in relaxation around it.”

Magda Escudero-Kane ’26, a Craft Center manager who is involved in the Friday “Happy Hours,” explained how the Craft Center can offer students opportunities that they might not find in their classes or day-to-day lives.

“The Craft Center is a great way to bring wellness and mindfullness into your life, and Student Wellness has been trying to do things other than just yoga and meditation,” Escudero-Kane said. “Other hands-on things that might work better for different people because there’s definitely a big segment of Bowdoin campus that isn’t interested in doing the [athletically-oriented wellness events].”

Nicholson similarly emphasized that the Craft Center, despite not being a commonly cited space for wellness, is a critical component to the wellness experience for students.

“One of the first spaces that [Bowdoin students] think about is [the Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness],” Nicholson said. “I think this is the predominant space on campus [that] people associate with wellness. However, I find that problematic.… I want more students to think more broadly [about] where and how they engage their own well-being.”

Furthermore, she said, “Happy Hour” allows students to meet, build community and converse with other students in a comfortable environment.

“There’s a lot to be said around how the arts or creative practices can build community and connection, to self, to each other and to a sense of place of purpose,” Nicholson said.

In the past, Nicholson has brought in an art therapist from the local community and received a strong positive response from students. Nicholson said she is hoping that this can happen again, particularly during the colder months of the year.

“We get cooped up indoors, and we really don’t know how to take great care of ourselves in the winter months here in Maine,” Nicholson said. “So, for me, the Craft Center and having a creative outlet or even starting to cultivate a connection to your creative self, can be a really valuable way to practice care and enjoy the winter months.”

Nicholson thinks that this initiative, and the Craft Center as a whole, can help students find meaning in their lives.

“Ultimately, art or creativity is a form of meaning making, and without meaning, we often feel lost,” Nicholson said. “The Craft Center is just one very simple, tangible way to have a space where you can drop in and touch in to this whole notion.”

Nicholson is unsure whether the “Happy Hour” events will continue after November, but she said the student enthusiasm she has seen is promising.

“It’s called a ‘Let’s see how it goes’ situation. I would be really excited [to extend the events]. But let me put it this way, I am excited by the very strong, enthusiastic response that we are getting from other students attending, which is showing us that there is interest enough to pursue this going into the cold dark winter months,” Nicholson said.


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