About “How to Draw a Tree”

(Trees, Mental Wellness, Creativity)

Thanks for visiting.

First, cheers to trees. They save us, everyday. We need to save them.

“How to Draw a Tree” is a participatory art project led by interdisciplinary artist Dawn Matheson. The work brings individuals living with mental illnesses together with trees for a year-long creative, care-taking, reciprocal engagement culminating in an immersive public sound walk at the Arboretum, University of Guelph, Canada and online here, created by visual artist Richelle Forsey.

How to Draw a Tree QR code signage.

You will find four sound walks on this website that are also accessible from a sign post with a QR code at The Arboretum for the site-specific walks, which I HIGHLY recommend if you can access them. All of the walks start at the TRAILHEAD (the University of Guelph campus entrance of The Arboretum where there is a parking lot and a kiosk) where you will find our signage for How To Draw A Tree. Here, the forest is a co-narrator AND provides all the visuals; nature is the best artist.

You will need your cellphone AND headphones (and maybe bug spray, sunscreen, and water depending on the time of year you go!)

Reciprocal relationship building through collaboration and creativity is at the heart of this work, with the goal of combating isolation and creating social change where it is most needed.

In turn, we hope the work will help cultivate wonder for nature, so that we will care for it, as it cares for us.

As the lead artist, I am the storyteller in the first sound walk, the ‘prototype.’ (If I am to ask students to undergo this immersion, I thought it only fair that I did so myself. And what a delight it was.) There are three other walks included here, all by University of Guelph students with lived experience of mental illness. Each student spent a year meeting trees and building relationships. The results of these unions form the stories told here.

This project is the result of an amazing group of people, I ended up calling The Tree Team— a very ad hoc and nontraditional mental health care team— all centered around love of and interdependence with trees.

The Wellness Tree Circle on Johnston Green, University of Guelph.

Please check out their bios and the information on the partners on this project.

One really incredible result of this project is a tree planting. Sister trees to each of the trees selected by myself and the students engaged in the sound walks will be planted on the Johnston Green, the front lawn of University of Guelph, as part of a dedicated mental wellness circle of trees, accessible to all!