Nominee finds empowerment with creative process

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 
Emily Distefano, The Carman Valley Leader


Lucille Valley Leader

Lucille Bart stands next to work by one of Artbeat’s alumni, Graeme King, on display at their studio in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.

Current statistics indicate that one in five people will experience some sort of mental illness in their lives – compare that with the one in twenty who live with diabetes, or the one in fifteen with heart disease.

And yet people who struggle with mental illness are often ignored, shunned, looked down upon and marginalized.

As Lucille Bart said, the discrimination can be brutal.

Bart was recently nominated for a YMCA/YWCA Woman of Distinction award for her work as executive director of Artbeat, a registered charity in Winnipeg that aims to help people suffering from mental illness with their recovery process through art.

Their mantra: healing and empowerment through creative endeavour.

Mental illness is a personal issue for the Bart family.

Nigel Bart, her son, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was 19.

At the time, Lucille ran a pottery studio in Carman called Morning Lark.

Nigel dropped out of school and worked with her for a year. The experience helped him with his recovery and he decided try to help others in the same way.

When Nigel founded Artbeat in 2005, Lucille gave up her pottery studio to help develop and run the program.


Artbeat provides studio space for nine artists over a six-month period. They require that 20 hours a week are spent in the studio, but scheduling is up to the individual. Participants don’t need to have a formal diagnosis, but they should have some basic artistic background.

Lucille said the program is unique in that it is “peer directed and led, and community based.” It is unique not only in Manitoba but in Canada.

“There is lack of alternative, community based mental health services,” she said.

She notes that people with mental illness live with their symptoms daily. There is no cure and medications often come with challenging side effects.

“The language can be challenging,” she adds. “We try to get away from labels.”

Instead, they encourage a holistic approach so that an individual does not feel defined by their illness, but by who they are as a whole person.

At the end of the program, the group puts their artwork on display. The 17th Artbeat exhibition will start on July 18, and the public is welcome to attend.


Since its inception, 120 Artbeat alumni have graduated with the skills to become self-employed artists.

Lucille said they are a “phenomenally courageous bunch.” She is continually impressed by the strength they find to claim their illness.

And she said people keep coming – a testament to both the success of the program and the magnitude of the need it tries to meet.

The 37th Annual Women of Distinction Awards Gala Dinner will be May 1.

Carman resident and lawyer Mona Brown, who won a Woman of Distinction award in 1993, and her daughter Meagan Brown, co-nominated Lucille for the award because she “has donated the majority of her life to helping people with mental health issues to heal.”

“If I can think of someone who truly deserves this award, it’s Lucille Bart,” Mona Brown said.

For her part, Lucille decided to let her name stand to promote awareness of mental illness and the work they do at Artbeat.

She remembers that people with cancer experienced the same kind of stigma years ago that people with mental illness do now, and she would like to see public attitudes shift in the same way. Her hope is that those who deal with mental illness will no longer associate their difficulties with a feeling of shame.

(If you are interested in learning more, “Out of Mind” is a documentary film by Holly Moore about the Bart family, Artbeat, and the work they do. You can find it at the Boyne Regional Library in Carman.)



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