“Make art. Be well.” Using art to help people with mental health issues thrive during COVID-19

By: Jack McCaskill, Communications volunteer, Canadian Red Cross
 
Teresa Morton, Program Coordinator at My Artist’s Corner (MAC).“It’s really inspiring to see the way people can rebuild confidence, re-establish hope, and build calmness and focus through their art,” says Teresa Morton, Program Coordinator at My Artist’s Corner (MAC).
 
MAC is a non-profit organization based out of Burnaby, British Columbia, that aims to empower people to explore their artistic potential while on their journey to mental health wellness. To accomplish this, MAC provides a safe and welcoming environment for adults with mental health challenges to receive high-quality art instruction. MAC also provides a space in which its members are able to create, display and sell their artwork.
 
Now operating for 12 years, MAC has 25 active artists who, combined, visit MAC’s studio an average of 1,000 times a year. They also put on an annual show which last year drew in 400 visitors to view 200 pieces of displayed paintings, drawings and mixed-media art. “It’s a wonderful showcase of what people can do, what their accomplishments are,” says Morton. “I’ve used the word inspiring before, but I would use it about the show as well.”
 
Like many organizations across the country, My Artist’s Corner has not been immune to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The opportunities MAC relies on for fundraising, such as art shows and art sales have been cancelled, causing significant financial strain for the non-profit. Additionally, from March to May, the program stopped meeting in-person, leaving MAC’s members feeling isolated despite efforts to stay connected over the phone and on-line.
 
A sample of the artwork done at MACHowever, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, the Canadian Red Cross has been able to provide support to MAC to ensure it can continue to deliver services.
 
With this new funding, MAC has added another day of programming per week to help relieve feelings of isolation their members may be experiencing. They’ve also used the funds to enhance their ability to provide classes both in-person and on-line. This increased support is, in turn, allowing MAC to provide services that build upon the resiliency of individuals and enhance their quality of life during a particularly stressful time.
 
“One of the things we see is that as people start to gain confidence in their ability to capture what they want to express in their art, they are able to transfer that confidence to other areas of their lives,” explains Morton. “So, they can be a little bit more active in the community, take more risks in terms of connecting with people, they can build up to volunteering in the community or even going back to school. It’s a very powerful thing.”

The Canadian Red Cross funded the continuation of this work thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund granting program.
 
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