By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 7 2017
Yasmin Schoenke moved through the clusters of onlookers at the Rails End Gallery on Friday afternoon iPad in hand a smile on her face. Walking from one artwork to the next she paused in awe sometimes moving the tablet computer in front of her face to snap a photo for later.
“Oh! This one’s me!” she said pointing to a drawing of a woman’s face on the far wall.
Schoenke is one of the artists featured in the two-week exhibition at the gallery Doors: Out of Our Minds! created in partnership with HHHS Mental Health Services and Visible Voices. Until Nov. 19 gallery visitors can look at the work created by the Art-Making for the Health of It! group which includes drawings paintings collage poetry and interactive components.
The group meets every Thursday at the Mental Health Services building in Minden where there is a dedicated space for art supplies open to everyone.
“I yearn for Thursday to come” says Schoenke. “It’s a happy place.”
The program has given her a new way to express herself a group of friends to meet with and a supportive environment that fosters good mental health.
“I thrive to go to the classes. When you’re having a bad day you feel ‘ahhhhhh’” she says dropping her shoulders and widening her smile. And if you’re feeling depressed or anxious counsellors are just across the hallway she says.
The group has been meeting for 18 months says Fay Wilkinson co-ordinator of the program. “We have this incredible core group who come week after week” she says standing in front of the audience gathered for the opening reception on Nov. 3. “I must say I’m so proud how people have grown and blossomed in that environment where we stress no judgment; where we stress simply be yourself wherever you are today is OK.”
Haliburton Highlands Mental Health Services director Dave Jarvis says this kind of group is not therapy but sets the stage for further discussion and can provide stress relief.
“It provides a cathartic experience” he says looking at a drawing of a woman’s face on one of the walls. Trees grow out of the scalp of the woman’s head and above her is the word “bipolar.” One side of the face is shaded in green and blue like water and leaves the other is red and orange her cheekbone shaded in black.
An image like this could provide a starting point for conversation Jarvis says.
Beth Crarey sits underneath one of her works at the gallery. It has a Remembrance Day theme with poppies and two hands traced on the page.
The group allows you to draw “whatever pops in your head” she says.
Margaret Burrows has a scrapbook in the exhibition which tells the story of moving from despair to hope through her religious faith. She says she’s not an artist but wanted to share a dream she had as an eight-year-old with references to Jacob’s Ladder the connection between heaven and earth.
“It’s a way of expressing how I feel about life and give hope to people” she says.
For those visiting the exhibition over the next two weeks there is an art station set up with colouring supplies and small folded doors made of white paper. Since the theme is doors everyone is invited to add to the display by creating their own doors and hanging them up on a designated line.
You can view Doors: Out of Our Minds! at the Rails End Gallery until Sunday Nov. 19. The Art-Making for the Health of It! group meets Thursdays at Haliburton Highlands Mental Health Centre in Minden. Mental Health Services can be contacted at 705-286-4575.