Tree Team


a colour photo of a woman's face looking at the camera. a trail extends into the distance behind her.

Dawn Matheson Artistic Director

I am an interdisciplinary artist with a socially-engaged practice specializing in video and sound art. I have directed participatory media-based projects for over 20 years with works featured at festivals,  galleries and in national media outlets… plus in forests, train stations, fountains and alleyways throughout Canada. Through inclusive artistic practices, I hope to interrupt civic and social spaces with unexpected moments of beauty, curiosity and joy and to dismantle barriers between individuals by creating alternative stories that build compassion and kinship. 

a colour photo of a woman's face looking at the camera. she is smiling and in the background are blurred out trees.

Richelle Forsey
Website Artist

Forsey is an interdisciplinary process-based creator and writer. Her practice is rooted in storytelling, fascination with the built environment, seeking beauty in lapsed spaces, and aleatory outputs. She is a member of the urbex photography collective TLR Club and Photography Technician at the University of Guelph.

You can see more of Forsey’s work at

a colour photograph of a man looking at the camera. in the background a blur of green trees.

Jeff Bird
Soundtrack Composer

Jeff Bird is a musician, composer, sonic explorer as well as a performance artist and experimental filmmaker.

Jeff’s father worked in the lumber business most of his life and instilled in Jeff a great respect and love of all things wood. Alive and milled.

Jeff learned from his father that if you see a nice stand of trees you should go and hang out with them.

a graphic of a treestump in black and white with small green leaves growing up

logo by Seth

colour photo of a man holding a flower to plant in the dirt garden he is kneeling in.

Jordie Lescard

Jordie Lescard is a general laborer, writer, podcaster, student studying psychology and philosophy, and mental health advocate. He’s also a Peer Helper volunteer at the Wellness Centre doing mental health outreach and workshops for students at the University of Guelph. 

Jordie considers himself a true lover of wisdom “philosopher.” In stereotypical philosopher / Socratic fashion he spends his time walking alone or with friends contemplating the mysteries, never shying away from an opportunity to learn, discuss, and debate matters of philosophy, meaning, truth, human nature, spirituality, knowledge, cosmology virtue, or the trees, birds, and clouds. Simply, he lives in pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

a colour photograph of a man looking at the camera smiling and holding a small white dog.

Abhiraj Dadiyan

Abhiraj Dadiyan is a recent graduate majoring in Management Co-op and minoring in Creative Writing. He is an international student from North India.  He lives with chronic depression and undiagnosed PTSD.  
Regarding his connection to nature, he says “My grandpa died in my arms under a Jamun tree in 2012 and ever since I have felt myself drifting away from trees and nature, so I want to reconnect to trees as they were a huge part of my life. I lived in a village and nature played an important part in my life and I have drifted away from that. I would love to reconnect with nature and help people who want to reconnect.”

a colour photograph of a woman with their arm around a child looking at the camera. the child has a hand raised making the peace symbol

Carey West

Carey West is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Critical Studies in Improvisation program at the College of Arts at the University of Guelph. She is also a singer/songwriter with over 20 years of experience performing. Her work has received support from FACTOR, the Ontario Arts Council, and the CBC. While performing in venues such as Roy Thomson Hall and Dundas Square Carey also taught music at an elementary school. Her 2017 album, “Made of Clay” focuses on songs from the jazz songbook that discuss mental health. Since moving to Guelph in 2013 she’s been involved in several community art initiatives. Carey is particularly honoured to participate in “How to Draw a Tree” as it combines her affection for the Arboretum, sound walks and discussions surrounding mental health.  

Farqd Barghash 

(Farqd was a great artist participant with HOW TO DRAW A TREE over this past year but does not have a sound walk ready to share at this time. You can hear an interview with her (by Jordie) on University of Guelph’s Wellness podcast number 14 “Setting Boundaries” on the ShineCast

I’m a recent graduate from the University of Guelph’s Wildlife Biology and Conservation program.  I’m currently working at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station as the head cook, combining my two passions: cooking and being outdoors.I’ve volunteered for a number of organizations working as an animal educator to teach the public about our native creatures and how to help protect and conserve them. I love to spend my time hiking and finding cool critters wherever I can! I am originally from Iraq. I live with multiple mental health diagnoses. Nature has always been a place of comfort for me, whether I am in a good place or bad, being out in the forests always helps me to feel better.


a graphic of a treestump in black and white with small green leaves growing up

Justine Richardson, The Arboretum Director
Rebecca Skellhorn, Wellness Educator
John Reinhart, Grounds Manager

Tree Team

a colour photo of a man smiling with a small leaf stuck to his beard.

Sean Fox
Tree Team Lead

Sean always seems to find himself among the trees.  After growing up exploring the woods and tending his own garden, Sean has continued to see his life woven into the forest through nearly 30 years of work and volunteer activities at numerous non-profit tree & conservation organizations, several plant nurseries and the University of Guelph Arboretum.  Away from work, Sean enjoys hiking and botany and has had the joy of witnessing every species of tree indigenous to Ontario, whether common or rare, in their wild and natural habitats across the province.

a colour photo of a woman and child sitting in a fruiting tree.


Memona is a mother, community activist and PhD candidate in Ecopsychology.  She is a tree lover who is always grateful to learn through the wisdom of trees. 

a colour photo of a man laughing in a forest.

byron murray
Tree Team

byron (>he/him+) grew up walking, singing and climbing trees along the Etobicoke Creek. The saving grace of an alternative school kept him in Southern Ontario until he graduated high school and set out to spend the next four years exploring the continent making music, writing zines, and learning about the natural world. He has always cared for and strived to defend the land base.

Employed at the Guelph Outdoor School since 2013, byron wanders the Eramosa River valley sharing his knowledge and passion for the natural world. byron is known for his infectious enthusiasm and love for the land. He appreciates the magic and mystery of wilder places and is guided by a deep sense of wonder and curiosity. He is inspired by thunderstorms, decolonization, and rivers.

Chris Earley
Tree Team

Chris is the Interpretive Biologist for the University of Guelph Arboretum and sharing the natural world with others makes him happy.  He loves meeting trees and observing their connections with the other beings in their ecosystems.

Gregor Kennedy
Tree Team Poet

Gregor Kennedy would like best to describe himself as a poet…someone attentive to beauty and mystery, particularly in nature. As a former Jesuit, his advanced degrees in philosophy and theology have sharpened his love of asking the kind of questions that open up growth in freedom. His spirituality is Creation-based, taking seriously the joys of being embodied/incarnate in a world full of beauty and challenge. He is the Executive Director and sometimes farmer at Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph. Walking is his favourite way of getting around and he enjoys playing guitar when he sits down.

a colour photograph of a woman's face smiling towards the camera

Karen Houle

 Poet, Philosopher, Curler, Ethicist, Compost Queen, Local Food Growing Guru, Mushroom Enthusiast and founder of The Art of Soil Collective.

a colour photo of two mn planing a tree

Mwangi Wa Wairimu

Growing up in Kenya, Mwangi remembers planting anything that would grow, from trees, to seedlings, to corn and beans. He thinks it was a way of trying to attach himself to the land that we were made to think we didn’t belong to. Fast forward thirty years later and Mwangi was planting trees in every open space on the boulevard in front of his house in Guelph, Ontario. To Mwangi, planting a tree has always simply made him feel at ease. It has grounded him to places and lands that may feel foreign and helps to make each place feel more like home.  

Mwangi is the University of Guelph Grounds Lead Hand and will be lead planter for a Tree Wellness Circle on campus linked to this project. 


 a colour photo of a man looking at the camera with a beaming smile.

Elder Peter Schuler

Elder Peter Schuler is a grandfather and Elder of the Mississaugas of the Credit and a member of the Minweyweygaan Midewin Lodge in Manitoba. An amateur writer and artist, Peter tries to pass on traditional Ojibwe teachings through storytelling, art and craft making. Much of his days are spent in the forest. 

a colour photo of a woman surrounded in darkness holding a microphone

JD Derbyshire
Mad Artist Advisor

JD (they/them) is a writer, comedian, mad activist, performer, playwright, theatre maker, director, inclusive educator and innovator residing in Vancouver, BC. 

They provided guidance for Matheson during the research phase in creating with mental illness rather than overcoming or concealing it. Mad Pride focuses on expressing the unique ways people experience the world in terms of making meaning, developing communities, and creating culture.

a graphic of a treestump in black and white with small green leaves growing up

Janet Cardiff

Special thanks for Janets’ advice and support. (