Jun 13

Haven for Hundreds with Mental Illness at Risk of Closing without Secure Funding (with Video)

Link – Former and current clients of East Vancouver’s Art Studios are trying to come up with the $370,000 a year to keep centre open


A look at Arts Studios a Vancouver Coastal Health community health unit in Vancouver that provide beginner and intermediate classes to people with a mental health diagnosis, the program’s objective is to encourage growth and recovery through participation in art. The Art Studios lost funding from Vancouver Coastal Health last summer, after 20 years in operation. The health authority transferred its $357,000 funding to other areas it rates as higher priorities.  Private donors have given the Art Studios enough money to keep it running until 2016. For more information/how to help call the Art Studios at 604-871-9788 or visit its Facebook page www.facebook.com/TheArtStudios Tax-deductible donations can be made to the VGH-UBC Hospital Foundation at 604-875-4676

“I used to let the bus decide what I did,” Colleen McNeil says. The other women working on projects around the table nod.

“If the No. 10 came, I’d go out. If the No. 35 came, I’d go home,” the 54-year-old with a bright streak of blue hair tells a reporter.

“I’ve been mentally ill for a long time so I’m really good at it.” A big laugh from the group, all with their heads bowed to a task.

McNeil says she’s been an artist all her life, before the nervous breakdown at 21, before the last suicide attempt at 35. Before she worked in real estate and advertising. Before the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Art has always been my medicine, but it’s isolating.”

After coming to the Art Studios at Victoria Drive and 44th Avenue in east Vancouver for a few years, she started teaching watercolour classes, something she says would be nearly impossible to do at a regular community centre.

Lazyest Gallery cannot access Upload on June 13 2014/