Mental health the inspiration for NAIT students advocacy project

April 17, 2018

Downtown, in a quiet space on the main floor of the Kelley Building, three pieces of drywall hold up a rather significant art installation.

This year, a group of first and second year Landscape Architectural Technology students at NAIT decided on this unassuming art piece for their advocacy class. Logan Gray, a first-year student on the team who worked on “Behind the Glass,” explained the reason for the art.

“There are multiple options you can choose from to advocate landscape architecture – our group chose an art installation. What it entailed was kind of wanting to do something more than was necessary, really reach the general public, and advocate to the general public.

The installation consisted of three windows, set into drywall. Each window had a photo behind it. On the right was a google image of a real location in Edmonton, and the left a mock up image of what the area could look like if the landscape was updated to include greenery and a more beautified setting. A profound impact when you saw the two pictures side by side.

The idea behind the installation was the effect of landscape architecture on mental health.

“We found a research paper on the effects of being near a window with greenery on patient’s health in hospitals. It showed that patients who had access or views to more beautiful landscapes and green landscapes, compared to those that had a window against a brick wall, or no window at all, those patients actually recovered faster… So that’s what gave us the concept of looking outside a window,” said Gray.

With the current relevance of mental health education, and the effects of long Edmonton winters, Gray said the choice to advocate for mental health awareness through the art piece was an easy choice. The handout available at the installation explained it further by stating that “positive stimulation, particularly nature views, significantly reduce physiological and mental stress.”

The downtown location was a choice pushed by Gray who thought it was better to have it in a central location, as a way to better reach the general public.

“I really wanted it to be downtown instead of having it at NAIT. It’s easier to have it at NAIT, but it’s kind of like preaching to the choir.”

Once the contact was made with the Kelley Building, NAIT helped provide the insurance to cover the installation for it’s week long showcase, and many of the materials came from Gray’s family farm to help keep costs down. The installation received very positive feedback from both their NAIT instructors, and the survey made available at the installation itself. Patrons who visited the installation on its opening day, Apr. 7, could buy raffle tickets for the fern hanging baskets on display as part of the piece, with proceeds from the raffle going to the Mental Health Foundation.

The exhibit finished on Saturday and despite being a new concept for the Landscape Architectural Technology advocacy project, it was very well received.

– Kelsey Baker