Resilience and Hope: Exploring Immigrant and Refugee Youth Experiences through Community-based Arts Practice


  • Heather McLeod Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Leah B. Lewis
  • Xuemei Li Memorial University of Newfoundland



Indigenous Peoples, Covid-19, Indigenous knowledges, Indigenous education, knowledge holders, Elders


Community-based arts practice is programming that informs and fosters essential components of well-being and belonging, including resilience, community attachment via interpersonal connection and exchange as preventive to mental health stressors. Our Art Hive is in a centre-city high school with immigrant and refugee youth in St. John’s Newfoundland, where newcomers often face an insider/outsider dynamic of disconnection. The pop-up Art Hive is a publicly accessible and community-located art-making space grounded in Adlerian theory, collaborative community development, feminist thought, and social justice. Through a community-situated arts-based participatory process, we sought emergent themes. An earlier phase of our collaborative project involved visual art-making and exploring experiences of inclusion and belonging. A second phase of the project included some of the same youth and new members, adding local students invited by the immigrant and refugee youth. This phase explored resilience and hope as a feature of well-being and functioning and as having a relationship with immigrant and refugee youth experiences in smaller Canadian centres. The Art Hive, a form of community art therapy practice, is structured along seven social parameters: focus on intentional art-making, no critical commentary (positive or negative), non-evaluative in nature, no forced participation, witnessing, sharing, and participatory involvement of facilitators. The participant-planned and hosted final exhibit contributed to learning, sharing, and group cohesiveness. A focus group generated data on how the Art Hive informs cultural experiences and feelings of hope. 

Author Biographies

Heather McLeod, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Heather McLeod is a Professor (arts education) in the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Review of Art Education, and has been recognized for excellence in curriculum development (national award) and teaching (faculty award). She taught in BC and Nunavut and worked in communications for a teachers’ union and government.  

Leah B. Lewis

is a registered creative arts therapist and psychotherapist with a background in counselling psychology. Her research interests are arts-based and community-situated. Her current projects include the Open Studio Project, an Art Hive with newcomer youth, and Digital Stories with Newcomer Youth. Her other interests include arts-based health inquiry. 

Xuemei Li, Memorial University of Newfoundland

is an associate professor at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research interests include newcomer (immigrant, refugee, & international student) integration in Canada, particularly in Newfoundland, methodology in teaching English-as-a-second-language, English academic writing, and cross-cultural identity reconstruction. She publishes, teaches, and supervises in these areas. 


Alder, A. (1932). What Life Should Mean to You. Allen & Unwin.

Anderson, W. J. (2012). Immigration in Rural Newfoundland: Individual and Community Change. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of New Mexico. Retrieved from

Argyle, E., & Bolton, G. (2005). Art in the community for potentially vulnerable mental health groups. Health Education, 105(5), 340-354. DOI: 10.1108/09654280510617178

Association for New Canadians (2013). Annual report. St. John's, NL: Retrieved from

Baden, M.S., & Wimpenny, K. (2014). A Practical Guide to Arts-Related Research. Sense Publishers.

Baker, J. (2013). Just kids? Peer racism in a predominantly white city. Refuge: Canada's Journal on Refugees, 29(1), 75-85. DOI: 10.25071/1920-7336.37508

Baker, J., Price, J., & Walsh, K. (2015). Unwelcoming communities: Youth observations of racism in St. John's. Journal of Youth Studies, 19(1), 103-116. DOI:10.1080/13676261.2015.1052048

Bettner, B. L., & Lew, A. (1990) Raising Kids Who Can. Connexions Press.

Block, D., Harris, T., & Laing, S. (2005). OS process as a model of social action: A program for at-risk youth. Art Therapy, 22(1), 32-38. DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2005.10129459

Cadell, S., Karabanow, J., & Sanchez, M. (2001). Community, empowerment, and resilience: Paths to wellness. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 20(1), 21. DOI:10.7870/cjcmh-2001-0002

Catlett, C. (2017). From article to action: Building hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. Young, Exceptional Children, 20(4), 191-193. DOI: 10.1177/1096250617741018

Chaturvedi, S. (2016). Accessing psychological therapies: Homeless young people's views on barriers and facilitators. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 16(1), 54-63. DOI: 10.1002/capr.12058

Conrad, D., Smyth, P., & Kendal, W. (2015). Uncensored: Participatory arts-based research with youth. In D. Conrad, & A. Sinner (Eds.), Creating Together: Participatory, Community-based, and Collaborative Arts Practices and Scholarship across Canada (pp. 21-39). Wilfrid Laurier University.

Croucher, S. M. (2009). How limiting linguistic freedoms influences the cultural adaptation process: An analysis of the French Muslim population. Communication Quarterly, 57(3), 302-318. DOI: 10.1080/01463370903109929

Curlette, W. L., & Granvill, H. G. (2014). The four crucial Cs in critical friend groups. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 70(1), 22-30. DOI: 10.1353/jip.2014.0007

Duggan, P., Fang, T., & Gunderson, M. (2013). Macroeconomic impacts of Canadian immigration: Results from a macro model. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 51(1), 174-195. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8543.2012.00905.x

Elena, D., Canning, S., Demill, K., & Samra, R. (2015). Open art therapy studios on campus: A case study, Adler university, Vancouver, BC. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from

Hesse-Biber, S. N., & Leavy, P. (2011). The Practice of Qualitative Research (2nd ed.). Sage Publications.

Jani, J., Underwood, D., & Ranweiler, J. (2016). Hope as a crucial factor in integration among unaccompanied immigrant youth in the USA: A pilot project. Journal of International Migration & Integration, 17, 1195-1209. DOI:10.1007/s12134-015-0457-6

Julian, D. A. (2006). A community practice model for community psychologists and some examples of the application of community practice skills from the partnerships for success initiative in Ohio. American Journal of Community Psychology, 37(1-2), 77-93. DOI:10.1007/s10464-005-9004-5

Kalmanowitz, D. (2016). Inhabited studio: Art therapy and mindfulness, resilience, adversity and refugees. International Journal of Art Therapy, 21(2), 75-84. DOI:10.1080/17454832.2016.1170053

Kottman, T. (1999). Integrating the crucial Cs into Adlerian play therapy. Individual Psychology, 55(3), 288.

Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets Art: Arts-based Research Practice (1st ed.). Guilford Press.

Lepawsky, J., Phan, C., & Greenwood, R. (2010). Metropolis on the margins: Talent attraction and retention in St. john's city-region. Canadian Geographer, 54(3), 324-346. DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-0064.2010.00315.x

Lewis, L., McLeod, H., & Li, X. (2018). The open studio: Exploring immigrant and refugee students' experiences of belonging. Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry, 10(1), 5-21. DOI: 10.18733/cpi29363

Malchiodi, C. (2012). Art therapy in practice: Ethics, evidence, and cultural sensitivity. In C. Malchiodi (Ed.), Handbook of Art Therapy (pp. 42-51). Guilford Press.

McNiff, S. (1998). Arts-based Research. Jessica Kingsley.

McNiff, S. (2018). Philosophical and practical foundations of artistic inquiry: Creating paradigms, methods, and presentations based in art. In P. Leavy (Ed.)(1st ed.), The Handbook of Arts-based Research (pp. 22-37). Guilford Press.

Moon, C. H. (2009). Studio Art Therapy: Cultivating the Artist Identity in the Art Therapist. Jessica Kingsley.

Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (2014). Immigration: Why it Matters.

Pearce, W. J. (2008). Bridging, bonding, and trusting: The influence of social capital and trust on immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada. Working Paper Series.

Reitz, J. G. (2005). Tapping immigrants' skills: New directions for Canadian immigration policy in the knowledge economy. IRPP Choices, 11(1), 1-18.

Stein, C., & Faigin, D. (2015). Community based arts initiatives: Exploring the science of the arts. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55, 70-73. DOI:10.1007/x10464-9698-3

Tillson, T. (1997). New coalition lobbies for multi-language counselling [Ethnocultural Coalition: Access to Addiction Services]. The Journal - Addiction Research Foundation, 26(6), 1.

Timm-Bottos, J. (2011). The "five and dime": Developing a community's access to art-based research. In H. Burt (Ed.), Art Therapy and Postmodernism: Creative healing through a prism (pp. 97-117). Jessica Kingsley.

Timm-Bottos, J. (2016). Beyond counselling and psychotherapy, there is a field. I'll meet you there. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 33(3), 160-162. DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1199248

Timm-Bottos, J., & Reilly, C. (2014). Learning in third spaces: Community art studio as store front university classroom. American Journal of Community Psychology: Special Issue on Community-Based Arts Initiatives; Advancing Theory, Research, and Action, 55, 102-114. DOI:10.1007/s10464-014-9688-5

Timm-Bottos, J., & Reilly, R. C. (2015). Neighbourhood art hives: Engaging communities in teaching and learning. In M. Parks & S. Fondrie (Eds.), Service-learning and Civic Engagement: A sourcebook (pp. 179-184). Sage Publishers.

Statistics Canada. (2006). Visible minority population by census metropolitan areas: 2006 census – St. John's, Halifax, Saint John, Saguenay).

Wolff, T. (2010).The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six principles and effective tools for building healthy communities. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Wolff, T. (2014). Community psychology practice: Expanding the impact of psychology's work. The American Psychologist, 69(8), pp. 803-813. DOI:10.1037/a0037426

Yalom, I., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (5th ed.). Basic Books.



How to Cite

McLeod, H., Lewis, L. B. ., & Li, X. . (2021). Resilience and Hope: Exploring Immigrant and Refugee Youth Experiences through Community-based Arts Practice. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 6(2), 88–104.

Similar Articles

> >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.