Kim Redgwell hasn’t painted a picture since she was a kid. But recently, she participated in an art studio project at the Irene and Leslie Dubé Centre for Mental Health.

Artist Jeff Nachtigall unveils Unity at the Dubé Centre

“Doing the art brought me joy,” says Redgwell. “It was being around other people, sharing the same project. When I left here I had a smile on my face.”

The art studio was a year-long project funded by the Royal University Hospital Foundation’s HUG fund and led by artist Jeff Nachtigall. Patients of the Dubé Centre and clients from throughout the city could make art in what Nachtigall calls an “open studio” where participants can come and go and they’re allowed to express their individuality through art. The individual pieces were then taken by Nachtigall and pieced together into several quilt-like pieces called Unity.

“It represents the individuals coming together, their sense of community, empowerment, and removing the stigma that still exists around mental illness,” says Nachtigall. “Art is so much more than pretty pictures on a wall. Art has the power to transform lives and to effect change. Art is a vehicle for hope, for healing.”

“This project was an opportunity for those who receive services at the Dubé Centre to bring forward their strengths and their ‘meaning,’ knowing the end product would be something very special for our Centre,” says Tracy Muggli, Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “We hope that this piece will represent the starting point in providing a permanent art studio program.”

Unityis 14 meters by two meters. It hangs in the Dubé Centre between the adult and child/youth wings where all clients, staff and visitors can see it and be reminded of the unifying spirit behind the work.