Putting the “art” in heart

Vancouver-based recovery program hosts event to sell art and make a difference

Tia Kutschera Fox // Opinions Editor

For those looking for fun things to do in Vancouver this winter, look no further than The Art Studios’ Winter Sale. The sale is an annual event, and happens this year on Wednesday, Nov. 22 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Heritage Hall. “All of the vendors are actually our artists, members from The Art Studios who are selling artworks that they created. They get to keep the money they raise through the sale of their art so it’s a great art show,” explained Michelle Stephan, a member and volunteer at the Studios. The event is a great way to meet local artists and learn more about The Art Studios, which is what Stephan herself did. “It was when they were doing their Winter Sale last year that I actually found [The Art Studios], so then I had the opportunity to go and check out the Winter Sale and through that I met a few people, and so it just kind of evolved from there.”

Stephan described how important the organization is for the community. “The Art Studios is a saviour. They are a fabulous establishment and they provide art classes, workshops, supplies and it is for people who are recovering from mental illness [or] from addictions as well.” Stephan discovered it for herself when looking for a way to deal with her own problems, through art. “I ended up there this past January with the worst depression and anxiety I’ve ever had. And I’m a different person now, and a lot of it I attribute to the programming, to the art as recovery.”

While The Art Studios provide members with art education, they are much more than just a regular art class. “It’s a little different when you walk into a place and they already understand that you’re going through issues. I would walk into my class and I would excuse myself for the first five to 10 minutes, and I’d cry in the bathroom because my anxiety was so bad. They have occupational therapists in each class and they understand. The first thing they say, day one, is ‘if you need to excuse yourself just let us know, go for it, and let us know if there’s anything we can do’, so it’s a really supportive environment for people who are going through issues that a lot of normal society might not understand.” Stephan emphasized that anyone can do this. “I see it as a great way to let people know there’s help as well. Because if people are suffering and they need a place to go and people who understand them, that’s us.”

While The Art Studios is actually funded by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the budget goes towards the bare bones of running the establishment, and not much else. That’s why the Winter Sale is so important to members and volunteers like Stephan. “It’s put on by the members of The Art Studios, and we are raising money for supplies and for workshops for our members. A lot of what we do is volunteer run and there are key members who do a lot of the work. We have a silent auction going on, and the profits from that raise money for our supplies as well,” Stephan explained. Stephan herself has an art piece in the silent auction, and noted that there will also be a raffle and 50/50 tickets up for sale.

The cost to attend is by donation, and every dollar goes to helping keep The Art Studios going. “They were very close to closing a few years ago, and due to a very large last minute donation it saved us for about four or five more years. We are forever grateful but we are thinking in terms of the future because we know it won’t last forever.”

If you want to attend an event where you can have fun, see and buy local art, and make a tangible difference, check out the Winter Sale. It could be a life changing experience. “It is very close to our hearts, because we have experienced firsthand just how much it has helped us, it has empowered us and it has taught us how to take our lives into our own hands.”

For more information about The Winter Sale and The Art Studios including how to volunteer or become a member, contact The Art Studios at (604) 871-9788 or visit their website Vrtas.ca/about/the-art-studios.

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