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Colouring book aims to be the most inclusive Ottawa has ever seen

Locally made book to benefit art program for youth.

Christine Kumchy (left) and Ellen Lee (right) work on practise pages for their anti-stress colouring book. The book is a fundraiser for local non-profit A.R.T. In Action.

Haley Ritchie/Metro

Christine Kumchy (left) and Ellen Lee (right) work on practise pages for their anti-stress colouring book. The book is a fundraiser for local non-profit A.R.T. In Action.

For a health phenomenon that’s supposed to give people a calm activity to de-stress with, taking a pencil crayon to an adult colouring book can sure be stressful.

The devil is in the details, says Christine Kumchy.

That’s why she enlisted the help of a friend to create a locally-made colouring book with a range of art that’s simple on some pages and more complicated on others, catering to a range of interests, skill levels and abilities that she hopes will really let people zone-out and enjoy.

The idea for the “Ottawa Colouring Book For Everyone” has been kicking around in Kumchy’s head for quite a while, but it wasn’t until she decided the proceeds should go towards local non-profit A.R.T. In Action that she really got going.

“I just couldn’t stop,” said Kumchy. “It wasn’t even an option, it (the book) just had to be done.”

The organization provides free art programs and mentorships to youth from visible minorities, from low-income families, with health issues and who experience various other barriers, said Mailyne Briggs, the organization’s executive director.

It’s an idea that’s close to Kumchy’s heart because, in addition to having an art mentor of her own many years ago, she’s also an occupational therapist.

“I have the opportunity to work with folks who have significant mental health issues, sometimes brain injury, and so I kind of had them in mind in doing this,” she said.

In fact, she remembers going in search of a colouring book for one of her clients, but one that wasn’t so complicated as to be stressful or mentally taxing. Finding such a book that wasn’t also full of Mickey Mouse was difficult, she said.

Pages from inside the “Ottawa Colouring Book For Everyone.”

Pages from inside the “Ottawa Colouring Book For Everyone.”

For her colouring book, Kumchy and her friend Ellen Lee planned to contact local artists for contributions. But, over time, the process of creating the book became inclusive as well.

When a neighbour got wind of the project, they wanted to contribute, and so did one of Kumchy’s colleagues, she said. Not knowing what art skills they had, Kumchy decided to include them anyway.

“If I’m going to talk about a book for everyone, I better practice what I preach,” she said. So contributors grew to include both professional artists and regular people. Even Kumchy’s former art mentor, Mitsugi Kikuchi, came through with five pages to finish off the book.

Briggs herself contributed a page to the book, as well as her nephew, Renmar Cachero, who penned the book’s front cover.

The fundraiser is coming at a good time for the organization as it now has a partnership with the Government of Nunavut to go north to a particular community once a year and put on art classes, said Briggs. There is also demand in other Nunavut communities to do the same.

 “We are trying really hard to come up with the funds to keep running these programs,” she said.

The colouring book will be available for purchase online and in some stores, with an official launch taking place on Nov. 16 at Arlington Five café.

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