Residents at CONNECT Lake Country are flexing their creative muscles during a new weekly drawing and painting studio. The studio gives participants the opportunity to work on creative projects in a fun, social environment every Thursday morning.

The studio is run by Maksim Parfyonov, a medical student doing a one-year placement at CONNECT. Maksim has been painting for 12 years and trained with Canadian artist Ali Aryan.

“It’s been fun for me to get back into painting as well,” says Maksim.

Maksim was inspired to organize the weekly gathering to spread his passion for art and to have a chance to meet more people at CONNECT. He hopes it will provide an opportunity for people to develop their artistic skills while also enjoying each other’s company.

“I can’t pretend to be a professional painter or artist,” says Maksim. “The most important thing is the social atmosphere.”

Organizing the art studio and being at CONNECT has also given Maksim the opportunity to learn more about what life is like for people living with brain injuries.

“I’ve always been interested in brain injury and stroke,” says Maksim. “It’s given me a view into the realities of living with an acquired brain injury.”

Independence Coach Brian Hall, who works with Maksim, is glad to have Maksim at CONNECT and hopes what he learns at CONNECT will help him when he becomes a doctor.

“We’re lucky to have him,” says Brian.

One of the aspects of the art studio that Maksim has found most rewarding is seeing people become more confident in their artistic abilities. During the first session, one participant put his head in his hands and exclaimed “I can’t do it, I suck”. Maksim started to draw the bark of a tree and encouraged him to add some leaves to the drawing using watercolour paint. After a few minutes, the man reached his arms out to Maksim to give him a hug.

“That was a special moment for me,” says Maksim.

Another woman who attends the studio sessions used to be a painter, but had given up painting. Now, she comes to the art studio every week and is rediscovering her passion for art. Although some people show up every Thursday, new people continue to show up each week as word about the studio spreads.

Maksim is currently trying to organize an exhibition at a local art gallery to showcase the artwork created during the studio sessions. Both Maksim and Brian are excited to share this project with the community and are hoping to hold the exhibition in Lake Country sometime in early spring.

Brian is glad the exhibition will be held so close to CONNECT, creating an opportunity to bring the community together.

“Lake Country is a small place, and we’re a member of the community,” says Brian.