'Painting from their soul'

Danette Dooley
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

New community-based art studio offers healthy, creative options for self-expression

As a school girl, Agnes Fuller loved to draw - on any available surface. "Often, people would call me obsessed," the 64-year-old recalls, "but I called it a passion."

Fuller became interested in painting four years ago, while caring for a terminally ill friend. When her friend died two months ago, she felt isolated.

Above, peer art mentor Karen Hanlon painted "Lessons Learned". Bottom left, Agnes Fuller, bottom right, Keith Goodyear. - Photos by Danette Dooley/ Special to The Telegram

As a school girl, Agnes Fuller loved to draw - on any available surface. "Often, people would call me obsessed," the 64-year-old recalls, "but I called it a passion."

Fuller became interested in painting four years ago, while caring for a terminally ill friend. When her friend died two months ago, she felt isolated.

Then she was introduced to Healing Expressions, a community-based art studio in St. John's that gives people grappling with mental health issues an avenue for expressing themselves creatively.

During an interview at the studio, Fuller sets down the tiny brush she's been using to create a scenic painting, using a photo as the basis for her work.

"This place has given me an out," she said. "It's given me a place to go. It's given me an opportunity to be with people who are interested in the same things I'm interested in. I don't feel alone anymore."

Healing Expressions is an initiative of Eastern Health's Community Connections Outreach Program and is run in partnership with St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and the Recovering Addicts Fellowship Team.

The studio is in the rectory of St. Andrew's on Queen's Road and is open Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Many of the artists who use the studio are involved in Stella Burry Community Services programs and other community-based initiatives.

On this day, several artists are working at a large table in the studio, while Josh Brady sits to the side, working at an easel.

"I'm happy and I enjoy joking and eating lunch with my peers," he has written in his artist bio. "Healing Expressions is more than just art, it's a place where I feel safe and accepted."

Brenda Halley, a social worker with Eastern Health, says the health authority provided startup funding for the studio under its mental health and addictions program.

When the initial one-year funding runs out, those running the studio hope it will be supported by the community.

It's been open for less than two months, and already six people attend daily classes and four others drop-in on a regular basis.

"These people haven't had any formal training as an artist," said Karen Hanlon, the studio's peer art mentor. "What they're doing here is painting from their soul."

She said the work the artists are creating is "symbolic of who they are and what they love."

"We have one artist who loves to paint seascapes," Hanlon said.

Keith Goodyear, 21, enjoyed roaming the beaches and rocky coves of Deadman's Bay on the northeast coast as a child.

Now he gets warmth and comfort when he returns to his roots through his paint brush.

He's also trying new techniques.

"I have a sense of pride in who I am and what I can accomplish because of my painting," he writes in his bio.

"I like the fact that I can come here and do whatever type of art I feel like doing that day, whether it's abstract, landscape - whatever," said 21-year-old Deborah Gilbert, a native of Grand Falls-Windsor, who's working on an acrylic painting.

"Over the last few years, since being diagnosed with mental illness, my painting has become a huge part of my life. It allows me to express how I'm feeling without necessarily talking about it."

While Hanlon is there to guide them through the painting process, Gilbert said the artists at the studio feel comfortable with each other and offer critiques of each other's work.

"Even when we're saying something that's not so positive, the environment is always positive and we're all really supportive of each other," she said.

Healing Expressions artists will be holding their first exhibition and silent auction from 1-4:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

For further information on the art studio, call Karen Hanlon at 743-1442.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Presbyterian Church, Recovering Addicts Fellowship Team, Queen's Stella Burry Community Services

Geographic location: St. John's

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments