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Rural man used art to escape illness

Man’s painting to be displayed at Assiniboine Park

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If it wasn’t for a life-changing diagnosis, Michael Cherlet wouldn’t be the artist he is today.

The now 49-year-old Gimli resident was diagnosed with a liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and ulcerative colitis three years ago, which prevented him from performing his jobs at the time as a high school teacher and working musician.

Cherlet, father of three children, said he had always kept busy with activities, so shortly after his diagnosis, he began taking a class at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

"It was just an introduction to painting course. I started painting and I haven’t stopped since," Cherlet said.

Now he has a painting in the Rural and Northern Art Show, presented by the Manitoba Arts Network, which is taking place at the Assiniboine Park’s Pavilion Gallery Museum. In its 11th year, the show started Sept. 9 and runs till Oct. 6, and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tim Schouten, visual arts program co-ordinator for the Manitoba Arts Network, explained that the show invites first-prize winners from regional art shows every fall to participate and put their work on display. This year, there are 80 artists in the show from six regions of the province.

"The show includes a range of media: photography, ceramics, fabrics, textiles, painting," Schouten listed.

Cherlet’s painting is called Bruxelles Road, a painting inspired by the small town of Bruxelles.

"It’s a beautiful hilly country, and it’s an area where my mom and dad grew up," Cherlet said.

"It was actually one of my first landscapes."

Cherlet said he sees his illness as "an opportunity more than anything."

"It gave me an opportunity to paint," Cherlet said. "Painting was a distraction (from) having to deal with illness. It gave me something to do."

For more information about the Rural and Northern Art Show, visit manitobaartsnetwork.ca

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