Feature From mess to masterpiece Art class helps Deer Lodge residents overcome barriers to creative expression

Ryan McBride

abstract art. No two are the same. For those who created them, they are treasures. Tis fall, nearly two dozen Deer Lodge Centre resi-


dents took part in a unique arts and crafts activity facilitated by Chris Bissett, who works in the Centre’s recreational services department. “Making the mess is half the fun,” says Bissett. To-

gether they mixed water, glue and acrylic paints, then poured the sticky mess onto ceramic tiles. By tilting the tile this way and that, each resident controlled how the multi-coloured mess spread across the sur-

o some, the tiles look like alien landscapes or brightly streaked squares of marble. To others, they evoke the masterpieces of surrealism or

face and flowed into expressive patterns and shapes. Bissett, who has worked at Deer Lodge since 2015,

says that of all the activities he’s facilitated for resi- dents, this one has met with the most enthusiasm. “No matter how inartistic you think you are, this makes you an artist.” The tile-painting activity makes creative expression possible for people who might not otherwise have the ability to create art. “Tey pick the colours, and if they can’t use their hands, they use mine: I move the tile whatever way they tell me to, so the paint goes where they want it to go.” Te tiles dry for 24 hours, then got a coat of acrylic

clear-coat. “No matter how you do it, you never get the same result twice.” Bissett says he noticed that as the activity pro-

gressed, the artists became more social, comparing their work to those of their neighbours. He could see those who couldn’t communicate smiling at the beautiful tiles they’d made. “Some weren’t all that keen to take part at first. But when they saw what the others were creating, and how much fun they were having, they had to get right in there. Some even ended up making more than one tile.” Te reaction to the workshop from participants and

peers alike has been so positive, he’ll be conducting more in the months ahead. A self-described “ex-biker with a shaved head,”

Bissett is quietly emotional about how the workshop has impacted him. “Seeing them light up at the work they did, and the affirmation of their peers, means more to me than anything.”

12 Life.Times

Winter 2018

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