Free Art Program for Immigrant and Refugee Women and Children on Saturday Mornings Offers a Creative Outlet, Sense of Belonging, and Opportunity to Practise English, with Interpretation and Childcare Provided

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Free Art Program for Immigrant and Refugee Women and Children on Saturday Mornings Offers a Creative Outlet, Sense of Belonging, and Opportunity to Practise English, with Interpretation and Childcare Provided

The REALI (Recreation, Education, Art and Life Skills) art program creates a therapeutic space for women at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. The program is a partnership between the Mackenzie Art Gallery and the RIWC (Regina Immigrant Women Centre). It was started as a way to provide art therapy for refugee and immigrant women, while providing childcare and art activities for their children. Participants get to try art activities like painting, clay sculpting, drawing and fibre arts, as well as practising English in a safe and welcoming environment with other women.

28 Aug 2017  Excerpts from the Regina Leader-Post article by Jennifer Ackerman

Ayla Dmyterko of the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s education department shares some information about the the REALI art program.  

The project is a free drop-in program that provides weekly art therapy for immigrant and refugee women as well as their children.


 Photo by Michael Bell

Hanane Boutoutane moved to Regina from Algeria just over a year ago. First a client of the Regina Immigrant Women Centre, she is now a translator for the centre and shares her skills at a weekly art and life skills workshop at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. 

“Personally, I like this program because it gives us a good opportunity to talk and it’s confidential,” said Boutoutane.

“Even when you say your problems ... it’s secret between us. And saying those (things), it’s good for us.”

The weekly workshops provide a safe space for refugee and immigrant women to share their stories, voice their concerns and learn what they need to know about living in Regina.

Childcare provided - all ages welcome - children participate in their own supervised activities

The women are also welcome to bring their children, who are looked after by staff and volunteers and get to participate in their own art activities and lifeskills workshops.

Boutoutane said the program is a good way for participants — and even herself — to improve their English skills and get a little time for themselves, knowing their children are well looked after nearby.

She has been a translator for the program since May and said she’s seen the difference it has made for the women who attend — especially for one in particular, Ibtissam Almasri.
“I see the difference between the first time and now. Now she knows that they have program and she can attend and say whatever she wants to say. It gives her confidence,” said Boutoutane.

Almasri has been coming to the workshops for a little over three months. With Boutoutane translating for her, Almasri said the staff and volunteers are friendly and her kids enjoy the times when they take the workshop out of the gallery and into the park so they can play outside with other kids.

She said being a part of a group makes her feel good.

Creates a safe place to practise English and learn the living skills needed for Regina

Julia Hardy, family support outreach worker and life skills facilitator for the RIWC, said creating a sense of belonging is one of the main goals of the workshop.

“We base what we do on Canadian Mental Health Association’s recommendations for immigrants. What they tell us is most important is first of all belonging and developing a connection and a group where everyone feels comfortable,” said Hardy.

From there they discuss life skills such as health care, landlord/tenant rights and transit.

Ayla Dmyterko works in the education department at the gallery and leads the art activities each week. She said they get women from different backgrounds, including South Africa, Sudan and Syria.

“I can’t imagine moving countries like that and they’re also not coming from a very safe place, so to kind of give them that comfort and make them feel welcome (is important),” said Dmyterko.

“The strength that these women have and what they’ve gone through and how they still stay super positive and how much they care for their children — I think that is the part for me that ... has touched me the most.”

Important REALI Program Information:  Mackenzie Art Gallery  3475 Albert St.

  • Free!
  • Childcare provided for all ages - infant and up.  Children will also have their own instructors
  • Snacks provided  
  • Registration can be done on Saturday mornings at the Mackenzie Art Gallery  - 3475 Albert St. (or you can pre-register)
  • Summer hours Saturday mornings - 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (continuing until announcement of change) 
  • (Winter hours: Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - starting dates will be announced later) 

For more information, or to pre-register:

Contact the RIWC at 306-359-6514 or

Transportation provided if needed:
Contact Julia at   

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