Sunday, July 22, 2018

Centre 507 and the Centretown United Church have paired up to host their first-ever art exhibit showcasing Centretown’s hidden talent.

The Artistic Expression Studio Art Exhibition is being hosted in the Bank Street church and features mostly paintings and some pottery. Many of the artists have experienced poverty, mental illness or addiction, and are regular drop-ins at Centre 507.  

The artists have been working for roughly a year on their pieces in a temporary studio in the church. Professional artists Lisa Thomas and Ginger McCoy volunteer regularly at the studio to help mentor artists.  

“The studio has a really relaxed atmosphere, there is lots of humour, and it is a little bit like a family,” Thomas says.

Most of the art created for the display is landscapes, flowers, or animals. Some artists showed portraits, while others showed mostly decorative art created solely from memory.

“People who are not mainstream tend to be far more open-minded to the creative process,” McCoy says.

For the artists at Centre 507, some of the difficulties they face in their lives may be preventing them from achieving key life goals.  

“These people often feel that they don’t have anything they can share with the community and this is their chance to do that,” Thomas says.

Just as the art in the exhibit can benefit the community, the process of creating the art has benefitted the artists. McCoy says artists leave the studio with a sense of accomplishment and their heads held high.

Rick Roy, one of the artists showcasing creations in the exhibit, says he has found the whole process of creating his art to be very satisfying.

“I’ve never walked away from the studio where I didn’t feel benefit from it, where I could say I wasn’t better off.”

Roy says painting has always been one of his interests.  He enjoys painting portraits, one of which was put on the exhibit’s flyer.

“They’re very talented people, it’s quite amazing what they have done,” says Centre 507 and church board member Linda Pollock.

 Roy says the planning for the exhibit was a co-operative effort.  

The program received close to $5,000 to fund the project. Centre 507 received a $2,500 grant from the United Church of Canada and $2,000 from selling old pews from the chapel of the church. The rest of the money was raised through donations from the church’s mission and outreach committee and the United Church women’s group.

The exhibit was also host to special guest speakers and performers such as former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent, pianist William Blais and the Shout Sisters Choir.

The gallery is open from Nov. 21-24 in the church’s sanctuary room. Pollock says she hopes Centre 507 will acquire a permanent studio in the church and run more exhibits in the future.

Without the group effort from Centre 507, the church, and the donations and grants, these artists would never have had a chance to succeed with their art, Thomas says.

“We need to face the reality that there are people living on the streets right around us and going to drop-in centres trying to make lives for themselves,” she says. “These things exist and need to be acknowledged so that people can find ways to support it.”

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