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Lady of distinction knows art’s therapeutic benefits

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 Michael McCracken, a regular at the Oak Table, touches up a piece of art Joan Hibbert helped him create.

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Michael McCracken, a regular at the Oak Table, touches up a piece of art Joan Hibbert helped him create. Photo Store

Joan Hibbert has created art all her life.

It has helped her heal, and with Hibbert’s guidance, it helps clients at the Oak Table heal, too.

Hibbert, 83, is one of the nominees for the YMCA-YWCA Winnipeg’s 38th annual Women of Distinction Awards.

"It’s very humbling to be nominated at this stage of my life because it’s for lifetime achievement," Hibbert said. "I’m very pleased about it. I just didn’t expect it, it was a surprise."

Hibbert, who moved from Victoria, B.C. at 22, has always been an artist, but her passion was often relegated to the background. In Winnipeg she got a job as an X-ray technician, and soon after, married her late husband, Steini Hibbert, and had four children. She said she was never the mom who cooked, but she had her other talents.

"Other moms cooked amazing meals," Hibbert said. "But I used to get them down on the floor and we’d do murals.

“It’s very humbling to be nominated at this stage of my life because it’s for lifetime achievement” -- Joan Hibbert

"Art has always been important to me."

In her 50s, Hibbert went back to university and took courses that would help her in her new chosen career path — counselling. She feels her work in this field is partly what led to her nomination.

"I think the reason I’m being nominated is because I initiated a few things," Hibbert said. "Women’s Post Treatment, which is the Laurel Centre now, and then later the Grosvenor Counselling group."

Hibbert retired at 67, but her post-retirement volunteer efforts at Oak Table Community Ministry also contributed to her nomination, said fellow volunteer Sonja Lundstrom in an email to The Sou’wester.

"This woman has contributed so much to our city and our community," Lundstrom said.
"I love working there," said Hibbert, who lives in Charleswood.

Hibbert was working at Augustine United Church (444 River Ave.) as a counsellor when her co-workers decided to open the churches doors during the day.

"We opened our doors and next thing we knew, we had people coming in, people who lived under the bridges, or lived in different degrees of poverty," Hibbert said. "They would come in and they would sit around this big oak table that we had."

Hibbert and the other staff would serve tea, coffee, and lots of conversation. It wasn’t until years later that Hibbert learned the Oak Table Community Ministry had been created.

"Then I was invited to come back and work with them with art, which is my love," Hibbert said. "So every Wednesday now I go to Augustine."

While there, she helps serve lunch and then supervises an art session which includes painting, sketching, and more recently hot wax art called encaustic wax painting.

In 2006, Hibbert broke her hip. She used her love of art to heal as she was bedridden. Today, she uses art to help those less fortunate who come into Oak Table.

Hibbert said the most rewarding part of volunteering at Oak Table is seeing the look on the client’s faces when they walk away with their own piece of art.

"When they see what they’ve done, that sort of expression of ‘I did that,’" Hibbert said. "It’s the excitement that I see in them.

"It takes them away," Hibbert said. "As one gentleman said to me, ‘When I’m working on this I don’t think about my problems.’ It takes them away for a couple of hours once a week."

The 38th annual Women of Distinction Awards will be Wed., May 7 at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg. For more information, visit ywcacanada.ca or contact event co-ordinator Sangeetha Nair at 204-831-2974 or by emailing wod@ymcaywca.mb.ca


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Twitter: @souwesterWPG

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