Artists and Union Gospel Mission agree ‘beauty is good for the soul’

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Art gallery at Union Gospel Mission. Photo by Andrew Taran.

When Union Gospel Mission approached artist and Emily Carr University Instructor, Jeanne Krabbendam, about donating art to hang in the alcohol and drug recovery program’s building, she knew she could do much more than that.

Through her vision, an entire rotating gallery emerged at UGM.  Notable artists from across the city are lending their works to the project and on September 5 (7 pm – 10 pm) the public is invited to drop-in to the gallery’s second annual opening, where the 23 new paintings will be unveiled. There will be guided tours at 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30. 

A mixed media artist and trained art therapist, Krabbendam understands the connection between art and restoration. “Beauty is good for the soul,” she says. “It brings hope and healing. A lot of the people in UGM’s recovery program had lost that for a while. They couldn’t see beauty in life.”

Krabbendam explains that art is only hung in spaces that people care about. “When you live on the street, there’s generally this sense that you’re a nobody. That’s hard to shake even once you’re housed. Hanging art that is valuable, thought-provoking and beautiful counteracts that message. The sheer act of displaying paintings of this caliber at UGM says ‘you are as worthy as everyone else, and you are respected.’” 

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Art gallery at Union Gospel Mission. Photo by Andrew Taran.

Krabbendam wasn’t the only artist to give back. When she presented the idea to her network, many noteworthy artists agreed to contribute. Beginning September 5, 23 paintings from 18 Vancouver artists will be on display at UGM. They replace the 17 paintings from the inaugural rotating gallery and will remain hung for one year.

“This is good for the residents, but it’s also good for the artists,” explains Krabbendam. “It gets them into the Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood that many of these artists care about but may be apprehensive to enter into. The gallery is a perfect first step.” 

Sally Clark, another submitting artist, has a deep connection to this project. An award-winning playwright, author, painter and filmmaker, she’s used to telling stories of struggle. “In my life I have known a lot of people who struggle with addiction, and many men who died because of it,” Clark recalls.

“I wasn’t able to talk to them in a way that would help them stop. So if I create a painting and someone in recovery finds peace in it, or it helps them in a way, I might make up for being powerless to help the men I knew.”

New this year, is the opportunity to purchase photography and paintings created by those from the Downtown Eastside community – specifically from UGM’s art programs, Photo 101 and Art from the Heart.

Photo 101 is a two-month class for UGM community members to study and participate in photography with renowned photographer Kevin Clark. Art from the Heart is an art therapy program fostering healing, wholeness and creativity for women at UGM and was founded by prominent artist Pamela Masik.

All proceeds from the sale and admission go towards UGM’s programs and services. The main office, and the art show, are at 601 East Hastings Street. UGM provides counselling, education, safe housing and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction at seven locations in Metro Vancouver. It has been active here for 70 years.

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