Outsider Insight helps artists with mental health problems

A Halifax-based group is helping artists with mental health problems find a market for their work.

Halifax program teaches business side of showing and selling art

Ingrid Cottenden's art helps her manage her depression. (CBC)

A Halifax-based group is helping artists with mental health problems find a market for their work.

Outsider Insight is a free, one-year program offering workshops and art supplies. The workshops teach artists about everything from framing to accounting to public speaking.

It's such a great outlet to make art.- Ingrid Cottenden

“It's not really anything that's taught in fine arts, but it's something that you need to know if you're going to go about selling your art and trying to make a profit,” said administrative curator Justina Dollard.

The aim is to help artists make a living from their work.

Artist Ingrid Cottenden said the program helps.

“I suffer from a lot of depression and anxiety. A lot of times it’s so hard for me to find a way to deal with all of those emotions and I find it’s so therapeutic,” she said. “It's such a great outlet to make art.”

Cottenden has connected with galleries and shown her work since joining the program.

“Because of my mental health struggles, I haven't had the confidence to be able to go out and do it on my own.  I haven't felt that I've been able to. And I no longer feel alone — which is huge,” she said.

She’s one of 12 artists who have signed up. The program has room for another 25 artists and is encouraging any interested mental-health consumers to sign up via their website.

Hope for permanent home

Outsider Insight shows the work in Veith House at 3115 Veith Street. It hopes to eventually raise money to open a permanent space.

Project coordinator Gavin Quinn says it will offer classes and community.

“We basically want to be prepared for anything that we need to be there for our artists. If it's just a cup of coffee and a chat, or if we have to go to the emergency room with them and advocate for them,” he said.

The provincial government funded the program for $30,000 and it will run until August. Galleries and other non-profits groups are helping.

Organizers hope to keep the program going beyond the summer.