Dube Centre studio gives psych patients creative outlet

Jeff Nachtigall is passionate about making art. Nachtigall pushed for a studio at the Irene and Leslie Dubé Centre for Mental Health. Patients are welcome to come in and unleash their creative impulses.

If there is one thing Jeff Nachtigall is passionate about, it's making art. He first got long-term care patients at the Sherbrooke Community Centre putting their thoughts and feelings to canvas eight years ago.

Soon he was getting requests from other facilities across the city and the country.

"Somebody challenged me and said 'You know what, your model works wonderfully in long-term care. It'll never work in an acute care setting,'" Nachtigall said. "So I asked them what was the most challenging, in their mind, acute care setting and they said mental health and addictions."

Always up for a challenge, Nachtigall pushed for a studio at the Irene and Leslie Dubé Centre for Mental Health.  It's an in-patient facility next door to Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital, offering care to more than 60 people at any given time.

The studio opened in March, 2013.  For 20 hours every week, patients are welcome to come in and unleash their creative impulses.

A professional artist himself, Nachtigall treats everyone he works with as a fellow artist.

"What I noticed in health care primarily is that the arts were introduced either as art therapy or as crafts," Nachtigall said. "So there was this infantilization, you know colouring books or popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners."

He aimed for a professional studio where the emphasis is on self-exploration and self-expression. Although healing is not the primary aim, it can be one of the side benefits.

Rob Rondeau found his way to the studio, though not intentionally. He just stumbled across it. At the time he was under treatment for depression.

"I remember very clearly when I first came in I was thinking in greys and blacks and dark hues," Rondeau said.  "And through my experience here in the art studio it really opened up my eyes.  And as I started to go through the program and started to recover I did start to dream in colour."

Never an artist previously, Rondeau discovered he enjoys it.  He continues to paint.

There is also an emphasis on collaboration in the Dube Centre's studio, partly the result of a limited budget, Nachtigall said. The result is some very large, imposing pieces that are the product of many hands.  They're hung prominently in the centre's corridors. 

Rondeau is among the contributors to the latest one.  

It's called, fittingly, "I Dream in Colour".


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