Winnipeg Jets help local artist find stable home, fight mental illness stigma

Jeff Lagerquist | CTVNews.ca | November 7, 2017

The Winnipeg Jets have given a local artist a big break. Not on the ice, but on the easel.

Jamie Hogaboam has long been a fixture in the city’s downtown core. He spent his first night on the street at the age of 50, and began sleeping in shelters in 2014. Chronic depression, severe anxiety, and a gambling addiction limited his income to what was dropped in his plastic cup.

For years, he got by selling original art to passersby, usually for a $5 donation. Landscapes, majestic animals, and of course, plenty of local sports figures, his work went mostly unnoticed until a local non-profit called Artbeat Studio started showcasing his work in June 2016.

Now, Hogaboam has been commissioned to create four hall of fame portraits for a team he has immortalized with the stroke of his brush for years. The first in the series, Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk, is set to be unveiled next week.

The team’s co-owner, Mark Chipman, told CTV News that he knew Hogaboam was the right artist for the job as soon as the pair met.

“He’s a beautiful soul, and we just kind of clicked,” he said. “His knowledge of the game is remarkable.”

Ernie Bart of Artbeat Studio applauds the Jets for hiring someone who speaks openly about struggling with mental health issues.

“It’s not like the people who hired Jamie to do the painting didn’t know his story. They certainly do. But it is the artwork that they are really focusing on, and that’s the way it should be,” he said.

The few thousand dollars Hogaboam earned from his work with the Jets has helped him find a stable living situation, and for the first time in a long time, a reason to keep going.

“When somebody with Mark’s stature comes and asks you to do portraits for him, you realize you have the ability to be successful,” he said. “I wanted to succeed.”

With a report from CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon