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Catch-Up With Luisa Henz, Artist in Residence

Catch-Up With Luisa Henz, Artist in Residence

Our Artist in Residence program, established in 2017, gives SJS students and staff the opportunity to learn from, and collaborate with, professional artists thanks to generous donations through Annual Giving. 

This September, we welcomed to SJS, Luisa Henz, our Artist in Residence for 2023–24. Working with each grade, as well as faculty and staff, she has brought her multidisciplinary approach to mindfulness grounded in psychology, through storytelling, music, the dramatic arts and visual arts.

Artistic expression knows no bounds at SJS, and having Luisa at the school has been an enriching experience for everyone. Here we sit down with Luisa to talk about what she has been up to since joining the SJS community, her experience as an IB graduate and working in an IB school, and what’s to come for the rest of the academic year.

Can you tell us about your background and what brought you to SJS?

I began my career working in special needs education and noticed the positive impact that music-making and dramatic arts had on children’s social, emotional and cognitive health. I decided to bridge my two passions, psychology and the arts, and went on to start my own business SoundMind, which enhances children’s interoceptive body awareness, emotions and mental health through drama, music and mindfulness exercises.

Prior to my time at SJS, I was facilitating mindful arts workshops for public schools in Vancouver. I was immediately drawn to the Artist in Residence role at SJS as the description fit my mission of bringing interdisciplinary arts to schools through the lens of students’ well-being. Learning that SJS taught IB was another deciding factor as I studied in all three programs and value these curriculums immensely.

What do you enjoy most about your role at SJS?

I have facilitated 85 workshops so far from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12, and I enjoy the challenge of modifying my material to meet the developmental needs of each age group. I enjoy getting to know students from every grade and being recognized as the teacher who creates games around understanding the importance of mental health. If I have one goal from my time at SJS, it is to promote mental health and community building.

What have been some of the highlights of your work so far at SJS?

I have particularly enjoyed visiting Senior School classes during their Health and Career Education lessons. We have explored the sensory experience of leaving one’s comfort zone in pursuit of growth, and Grades 6–12 students have been learning important tools for stress management

Another recent highlight is when I facilitated a five-week Applied Theatre series with the Grade 11 IB Theatre students. In this theatre modality students devised tableaus about social injustice. They learned about power dynamics and inequality while gaining first-hand experience of the positive effects that community dialogue can provide. It was a great opportunity for students to develop their skills in community understanding and empathy.

I am also currently hosting five senses workshops with Junior Kindergarten, which have been a lot of fun. We’ve been learning about sensory awareness through music, dance and playful storytelling. The students are enhancing their body regulation through proprioceptive body awareness and vestibular balance games, and also learning about the auditory sense by making music with my calabash drum and percussion instruments from around the world. The children are also exploring their olfactory and visual senses with a nature smells to watercolor workshop.

What are your reflections on your own IB education?

Because of the robust and multidisciplinary structure of the IB offer, I developed a myriad of skills that prepared me for post-secondary education and the world beyond. I grew up in Singapore and attended United World College of South East Asia, where I went through the PYP, MYP and DP programs and spent many hours in the theatre department, performing and soaking in knowledge from theatre traditions across the globe. This international perspective offered by the IB sparked my desire to facilitate interdisciplinary, community-centered arts through a cross-cultural lens.

When I look back on my own IB experience I am most grateful for the teachers. They poured every ounce of support and passion into their work, and it made a lasting impact on my own desire to work in education. The teachers and admin at SJS are equally dedicated to their students and the school, and it is a privilege to work in this highly motivated environment.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to coming up the rest of this year?

We have lots of interesting projects on the horizon for the second half of the academic year. In the Junior School, we have projects that include smell to watercolour workshops, shadow puppetry, soundscape creation for nervous system activation and relaxation, and a focus on active listening through crystal bowl and handpan relaxation. In the Senior School, I’m coordinating weekly lunchtime sessions for MYP Drama Club and DP Handpan Meditation Club where we further learn about mindfulness and neuro-health.

The event I am most looking forward to is Kindness Day (Thursday, February 22). This full-day community-building event will connect Junior to Senior School students through art-based kindness activities and more!