Art of Recovery program to help 'paint out the problems'

A well-known artist in Renfrew, Ont., plans to help people struggling with mental health and addiction through a new program called The Art of Recovery.

Renfrew artist will facilitate art workshops for community’s most vulnerable

Patrick John Mills stands beside one of his latest paintings. It's part of a series titled Malignant, which Mills started after being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Patrick John Mills knows all about the vital link between art and mental health.

The professional artist has paintings in collections around the world, but currently his studio in Renfrew, Ont., is filled with his latest series, titled Malignant.

The collection of highly textured paintings was inspired by his recent cancer diagnosis. Mills said it was a way for him to take control and come to terms with his own mortality.

"The malignant series was pretty much necessary for me. It helped me tremendously," said Mills, who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia last year.

Mills said the highly textured paintings filling his art studio will take months to dry. (Robyn Miller/CBC News)

Mills doesn't know what his future holds, but he knows he wants to help others who are struggling with mental health or addictions issues through a program he's calling The Art of Recovery.

Workshops held at The Art Factory

The free, hands-on art workshops will be held at The Art Factory, a former foundry near the Bonnechere River that Mills has been renovating. The buildings used to belong to H. Imbleau & Sons, a company that made cast iron manhole covers.

Construction is still underway, but once it's finished Mills also plans to use the space for private art lessons and exhibition space for those wishing to sell their work, all free of charge.

"I have enough, and what I don't have enough of is people being happy and kind to one another," Mills said.

For The Art of Recovery program he enlisted the help of other local artists including painter John Robert Bradley, who's also a recovering addict.

John Robert Bradley is a Renfrew artist who has volunteered to teach classes as part of the Art of Recovery program. He's a recovering addict himself, and knows first hand how much art can help heal. (Robyn Miller/CBC News)

"It's allowed me to paint out the problems sometimes, and it's a release — a release of feelings that I can't get any other way," said Bradley. "And to help others with it and through art, that's the art of recovery, so I think it's wonderful."

Program needed in Renfrew

Renfrew has a robust recovery community, according to William March, who spent years of his life addicted to drugs. He recently rediscovered painting while in a rehabilitation facility, and said a program like this could really help others.

"In late-stage addiction, getting and using drugs is all day every day, so when that's taken away that's a big hole," March said. "This is something that fills that hole in a very positive way and helps you make sense of your own story and rediscover who you are."

New art program aims to help those struggling with mental health issues, addiction

2 years ago
Duration 2:09
Patrick John Mills, owner of the Art Factory in Renfrew, Ont., is launching a new program aimed at helping those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, while fighting the isolation brought on by the pandemic. The CBC’s Robyn Miller reports.

March said without art, he wouldn't have made it through this past year sober.

"There's just so much isolation, and isolation is ... terrible for addicts. I mean it's terrible for anybody, but especially for addicts," he said.

March plans to take part in the program, which will get underway as soon as pandemic restrictions allow.

William March is a recovering addict and amateur artist who rediscovered painting while in a rehabilitation facility. He said Renfrew has a robust recovery community that will benefit from a program like this. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

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