New exhibition at The Salvation Army shines light on work by recovering addicts.
March 16, 2016 by Sandra Abma
In a large room just inside the entrance to The Salvation Army Booth Centre in Ottawa’s Byward Market, a poet stands in the corner reciting hard-earned lessons, surrounded by displays of brightly coloured paintings and drawings, all made by the men who attend the centre’s art studio workshop.
Painting, poetry and acting out are all part of the weekly therapy sessions for residents of the housing centre and others who take part in its addiction recovery program.
Every Monday night for the last three years, men have been encouraged to explore—their lives, their anxieties and the root causes of their addictions through the making of art.
Chi Wei Lee, who says he was once severely depressed and homeless, hasn’t missed one session since they started.
“I used to tend to keep everything to myself, all bottled up and then I’d explode,” says Chi Wei, as he stands before a number of his brightly painted works. “Art is a good way for me to express it. If I’m angry, it just comes out on the paper.”
Dennis Pettigrew, a former resident of the men’s shelter, is showing his illustrations at the exhibition. He talks about the value of the art therapy program as a worthwhile diversion.
“A lot of people have addictions and other problems,” he says. “This gives them a way to turn around and escape from those addictions. It’s a diversion for them. If we saw some of the famous artists from the past today, we’d say, ‘Oh, what sketchy people!’
“There’s a genius in everybody.”
Melissa Weigel, the Ottawa Booth Centre chaplain, launched the workshops as part of the ongoing drug and addiction rehabilitation program because she wanted to create an informal atmosphere where participants would feel free to use paint, pencils and ink as a means of self-expression.
“It’s very therapeutic as it gives you some self-awareness, some self-discovery, an expression of your emotions, something you might not realize is going on inside of you,” explains Melissa. “You’re expressing yourself with lines and colours rather than words.”
(Reprinted from CBC.ca)