Ayoko Magazine Volume 3, p.30 | Fall 2013 | Text by Andrea Danelak
Offering a Creative Outlet and Renewed Hope
Nigel Bart strives to reduce the stigma experienced by those living with mental illness in a unique way.
Enter Artbeat Studio, a non-profit registered charity in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District that provides work space for up to nine artists living with mental illness. Founded in January 2005, Artbeat provides resources and peer support to promote mental health healing and empowerment through artistic activity, including fine art, music and poetry.
Studio facilitator Nigel started the program with his parents, Ernie and Lucille, after his diagnosis with schizophrenia. Working in his mother’s pottery studio after a major acute episode and his subsequent diagnosis at age 19, he found more than just a creative outlet – he found renewed hope.
Eventually obtaining his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Manitoba’s School of Art, Nigel needed to share what he had discovered with others suffering from similar illnesses. Inspired by the connection between mental illness and art, Nigel pursued his dream of art recovery through the formation of Artbeat.
Accommodating nine artists with studio space and equipment over a period of six months, the studio allows them to work on projects and develop technical skills through its mentorshp program, free of charge. In addition to providing the safe, supportive work space, Artbeat also gives artists the opportunity to sell their artwork at its own gallery as well as at Studio Central, also located in the Exchange District.
Not only does Artbeat provide its participants with a creative outlet, it also gives artists like Shonnah Heinrichs a real sense of belonging. “I used to keep my art to myself, but the studio has given me a solid foundation to build confidence in all aspects of my life,” says Shonnah.
Even after they have finished the program, artists like Shonnah continue to feel like they’re part of Artbeat community, thanks to the warm atmosphere and mentoring provided by Nigel and his parents.
“I’ve known Ernie and Lucille Bart since before their involvement in getting Artbeat up and running, and through them, was introduced to their sons,” says Artbeat volunteer Justin Petkau. “The entire Bart family brings hard work and passion to everything they do, and when you spend time with any of them, it is easy to be drawn in and help with their inspiring and compassionate undertakings.”
Considered a role model for anyone living with mental health issues, Nigel has shown people that they are not alone and that they can be part of a community of people with shared interests and similar challenges. And perhaps most importantly, by increasing awareness of the issues surrounding mental illness, Nigel is helping to beat the stigma, one piece of art at a time.
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