January 15th, 2021

Program lets homeless showcase artistic talent


By Lethbridge Herald on November 27, 2020.

Program co-ordinator Tannis Chartier checks in on artists Tyler Crying Head, left, Angel Enchanted and Louis Borutski as they take part in the Resilient Art YQL program earlier this week at the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
Tannis Chartier had a sketch of an idea.
Now, she’s helping the homeless not only create works of art, but drawing up some funds to help them start a new page.
Chartier is the founder of Resilient Art YQL, a program run out of the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen that allows the homeless a chance to showcase their artistic talents.
What’s better, Chartier has been selling the artwork as well with the proceeds going back to the people making the creations.
She said the name of the program is an apt one.
“These people have a lot of resilience,” said Chartier this week at the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen. “It’s an art program and our goal is to provide meaningful activity to the Lethbridge homeless population. The initial goal was to provide this activity and on top of that I started selling their art work on our Facebook page and put the money back toward their needs. We’ve bought winter jackets, medication and some Tim’s cards and now they want to buy art supplies, which is so exciting.”
Resilient Art YQL recently took the next step with their own colouring book, said Chartier.
“Two of my artists each put in 15 drawings and we have 120 books at $20 each, so we’ve made $2,400 in colour book sales. We have no idea what may happen with these colouring books sales. I ordered 400 and if they all sell that’s at least $6,000 in revenue that we want to put towards their needs, whether that be immediate needs for the moment. We’ve had phone cards, which really helped to get them to pay their bill or make those calls they need to make. But we would love to see some bigger-ticket items.”
A recreation therapy student at Lethbridge College, Chartier started volunteering with the Dinner Time Meal Program in May through her church.
It was at that time she saw a need for meaningful leisure.
“We’re filling these basic needs — food, water and shelter. And then what?” said Chartier. “People can sustain food, water and shelter. But that doesn’t move you forward. What moves you forward is passion, meaning and purpose. I was wondering how we do that and art came to mind. In August I started this program and it has taken off.”
Chartier has sold drawings for $15 and up to $100 for a painting.
She keeps track of what each artist has sold to make sure they get the funds for their work.
“I work with them to figure out their needs. I do it all as a volunteer right now, which is a lot, but I don’t regret it,” said Chartier.
“It’s huge. It’s worth every hour of your time.”
That bit of extra cash in someone’s pocket can be the key to turning things around.
“That little bit of income is huge, because once you can get a phone card, you can call people to get your medication,” said Chartier. “And once you can call people for your medication maybe you can start looking for a job. It’s huge.”
With anywhere between six and 12 guests a week and about 25 people who have come through the program, Chartier has mixed up the activities.
“Art is once a week and I try to run one other meaningful leisure activity once a week,” she said. “We’ve done bingo and a name-that-tune one night, anything to keep people busy.
“We did chair yoga and tai chi, and the turnout was incredible.”
The feedback from her clients has been inspirational at times.
“I’ve heard everything from ‘Hey, this is something to do. Thanks for the free coffee.’ And I’ve actually had people tell me ‘This is keeping me sober right now,’ which is huge.”
However, Chartier noted not all homeless people use substances.
“For people who do use, this is something totally different,” she said. “It keeps their mind free. I had a gentleman who said it keeps his mind off drugs and alcohol for a couple of hours.”
The artists who created the works for the colouring books being sold —  Louis Borutski and Richard Woslyng took some time to do a bit of drawing on this day.
“I was doing tribal abstract art,” said Borutski. “Anybody can colour it in. I go on the internet and look at a bunch of different things, kind of get some ideas. I just collaborate and come up with my own ideas.”
Borutski took art in high school and used to draw when he was younger.
“I put it down for a while, but just recently I picked it up again and started doing it. It’s just something that never leaves. I enjoy it,” he said. “It gives me something to do and it takes my mind off my situation and I can always make a few extra bucks to buy the things I need. It helps out. It’s good spirits, too. We hang out here and joke around. It’s all good. It keeps our morale up.”
Woslyng said he’s more of a “scribbler” than an artist.
“I just make lines that turn into something and eventually it turns into a picture or an abstract thing,” he said. “It just gives us something to do and a way to make a couple of extra bucks.
“It’s important because it gives us something to do.”
Chartier has one more semester at Lethbridge College.
“I don’t know what’s to come. What happens, happens,” she said. “It was one of those things where I had this tiny, little idea for having art once a week and maybe I’ll have two people come and draw. It just kind of blew up. There’s this saying in the church: ‘God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.’ That’s kind of what happened. I had this little idea and it was going to blow up for me.”
For more information on Resilient Art YQL and how to bid on items, visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Resilient-Art-YQL-102996981502226.
— With files from Ian Martens
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter

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