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Beating the blues through art

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Artist Daniel Lemire (left) and Artbeat employee Rebecca Winkworth display Lemire’s sketch of the Sunday night blues jam at Times Change(d). Fourteen Artbeat artists added their own flair to Lemire’s sketches for Who’s Got Dem Blues? which is on display at Seven Oaks General Hospital.

PHOTO BY JARED STORY Enlarge Image

Artist Daniel Lemire (left) and Artbeat employee Rebecca Winkworth display Lemire’s sketch of the Sunday night blues jam at Times Change(d). Fourteen Artbeat artists added their own flair to Lemire’s sketches for Who’s Got Dem Blues? which is on display at Seven Oaks General Hospital. Photo Store

Seven Oaks General Hospital (SOGH) hopes brightening up its walls will brighten its patients’ spirits.

On May 1, Artbeat Studio Inc. installed its fourth exhibit of original art in SOGH’s east corridor as part of a five-year partnership with the hospital. The exhibits, each based on a theme created by one artist in collaboration with other Artbeat artists, are rotated every six months.

Located at 62 Albert St., Artbeat provides studio space and mentorship opportunities for people with mental health issues. Artbeat also offers programming at its Studio Central location (444 Kennedy St.).

"Artbeat is a great resource in our community for people managing mental health challenges and we’re grateful for that," said Twylla Krueger, executive director of the SOGH Foundation and business development.

"It’s also an inspiration for psychiatric patients in our hospital. It’s a place we can refer our patients to after their discharge.

"We do look forward to each new installation. It’s a great way to showcase what they (the artists) do, a great way to support Artbeat and an excellent way to support what they’re doing with patients who have mental health challenges."

The current installation at SOGH, Who’s Got Dem Blues?, features 38 drawings by 14 artists. Facilitated by artist/writer Daniel Lemire, a regular at Studio Central, the pieces are derived from Lemire’s sketches of musicians at Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club.

Two years ago, Lemire, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), started sketching bands at the downtown blues bar. He said the sketches stand in stark contrast to his previous stories and drawings, which exude darkness and depression.

"I found that as I revisited this cesspool (his early PTSD-inspired writings), I was dragged into the pit deeper, just by rereading them and trying to illustrate them. Then I just so happened to run into a guy that introduced me to the Times Change(d)," Lemire said.

"I would draw the musicians, but the drawings were inconsequential, it was just getting me out so that I wasn’t under the bed."

For Who’s Got Dem Blues? Artbeat artists were given Lemire’s sketches of blues players, with each artist adding his/her own artistic style to the piece.

"Sometimes they just coloured them in and brought them to life and in other examples they’re completely changed from the original drawing," said Rebecca Winkworth, community art program co-ordinator at Studio Central.

"They’re glorious," said Lemire of the artists’ additions to his sketches.

"What’s neat about it is there are such a variety of themes. I’m telling the musicians to check it out and they’re pretty excited. I can’t wait until a couple of them actually go and come back and say ‘Man, that’s really trippy.’"

Winkworth hopes the pieces shine a light on the issue of mental health.

"When you go into a hospital, you don’t get a mental health vibe," Winkworth said. "We wanted to raise the profile of mental health being a health issue and by using the corridor space, we’re reminding people about who we are, our philosophy and breaking down the stigma of mental health issues."

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