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Gallery Gachet has art and soul

If creative expression has the power to heal the mind and soul, then Gallery Gachet is bringing art to the…

By Sarah Berman , in Outdoor Voices: Music, arts and culture in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside , on January 20, 2009 Tags: , , , , ,

If creative expression has the power to heal the mind and soul, then Gallery Gachet is bringing art to the place it’s needed most.

Gallery Gachet promotes mental health through creative expression.
Gallery Gachet promotes mental health through creative expression.

At the corner of Columbia and East Cordova Street, the electric blue community gallery hosts a wide range of alternative art, from feminist performance to bicycle decorations.

But the heritage building provides much more than a set of white walls to hang artwork. First and foremost, Gallery Gachet is a creative community devoted to addressing mental health issues in the Downtown Eastside and throughout Vancouver.

Named after Vincent Van Gough’s homeopathic doctor, Gallery Gachet offers workshops and other supportive programming to those who are marginalized from society due to mental illness, trauma and abuse.

From woodworking and sculpture to video editing and digital photography, these workshops aim to give agency to some of society’s most vulnerable members.

It’s initiatives like this that truly make me smile.

The social ills that seem to haunt the Downtown Eastside are complex and multifaceted, so it takes a diverse set of social programs to provide the best help for everyone. While some may argue more policing is usually the best solution, I’m more tempted to believe in preventative measures—even if it means taking away a few more hard-earned tax dollars.

Although art may not directly solve issues of poverty, violence, or addiction, I think these workshops have the capacity to stimulate minds and enact positive life changes. Gallery Gachet peels away at one of the layers that cause greater social ills, and for that it should be commended.

Tonight, Gachet is hosting a pay-what-you-can drawing class beginning at 6:30 p.m. The drop-in workshop requires no previous experience and provides all necessary materials.

Regular gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday between 12 and 6 p.m.

Gachet gets paid

Today city council will vote on a $60,200 arts grant, of which Gallery Gachet will likely be a partial recipient. According to a long-winded city report (which I admit I have not yet fully read), a big chunk of this grant will launch a brand new project called NEXT Generation Arts Leadership.

What is NEXT Generation Arts Leadership, do you ask?

Here’s what the report has to say:

The NEXT Generation pilot program assists small and mid-sized arts organizations that have moved out of start-up and that now envision a longer term strategic course of action to accomplish growth. The aim of the program is to integrate improved leadership capabilities, to increase organizational balance, and gain a community of arts leadership practice. An initial cohort of six arts organizations will participate in a facilitated development process shaped around the individual leadership, organization and shared challenges of the group.

So, in other words, the grant money will help stabilize six small and mid-range arts organizations with as much as $20,000 to help with development and infrastructure. Gallery Gachet is one of those lucky six. Great, right?

Well, not exactly. From what I’ve read, it’s good—but it’s not great.

According to a Georgia Straight article back in October, Vancouver has been clumsy with its arts grants in the past. Many circles of the arts community are upset because of all the “paperwork and bureaucratic oversight . . . is gumming up the works.”

In Vancouver, all art grants are administered by the city’s office of cultural affairs, rather than an autonomous arts council. Despite having more artists per capita than any other Canadian city, Vancouver is the only major Canadian city not to have an arms-length arts council, says Heather Redfern, executive director of the Eastside Cultural Centre in the same Straight article.

So what does this all mean for social projects like Gallery Gachet? Truthfully, I am unsure. My next plan of attack is to have a conversation with Gachet’s director Irwin Oostindie. However, in the meantime, I’m going to try my hand at sketching to relieve some mental tension.

Photo courtesy of Uncleweed.