Four artists and alumni of Artbeat Studios' artists-in-residence program took to centre court at Portage Place Shopping Centre Friday afternoon to splash, brush and fling paint onto large canvases to raise awareness for mental health issues.

"Creativity is sort of the last refuge of expression where there is no judgement," said Jan Nato, the community art program co-ordinator at Artbeat Studio.

Artbeat Studio is a community based studio that provides space and resources for artists struggling with mental health issues.

Artbeat runs a six-month, peer directed recovery program twice a year and has space for nine artists at a time. The program promotes healing and empowerment through creativity.

Nato also said that typically, people in their everyday lives are confronted with thoughts of 'is this right' and 'is this being done well' and creativity is a way to express yourself however you want, to get your emotions out without judgment.

Splash and splatter

Two artists Sandy and Ildiko take part in Splash and Splatter at Portage Place Shopping Centre Friday afternoon. The event is being held by Artbeat studio to promote healing and empowerment through creativity. (Thomas Asselin)

Rex Gosselin found out about the program after seeing art work on the walls of the Crisis Response Centre on Bannatyne Avenue two years ago.

Gosselin had been at the Crisis Response Centre to get help with postpartum depression after her daughter was born. She said finding the program provided a community. 

"I was feeling really down in the dumps, I felt really alienated from people, like I just couldn't be myself." Gosselin said.

"When I went to Artbeat I found a place where I could just be myself, talk like I would normally, kind of express some of the difficulties I was having and there were other people going through the same thing as me."

Many onlookers took in the flurry of activity as the four artists each created their personal works of art and a fifth canvas was available for anyone passing by to add a personal splash of colour. 

Applications are accepted year round for Artbeat Studios' artists-in-residence program and applicants must be at least 18 years of age.