Local artist hopes to reintegrate art into Saskatoon culture

Watch above: Art is not just something to hang on the wall

SASKATOON – Art is the vehicle that inspires change, according to Jeff Nachtigall, artistic director at the Sherbrooke Community Centre.

“I’ve seen art save lives,” said Nachtigall. “There are individuals who are contemplating assisted suicide, but by being able to express themselves, visually and creatively, they found a new lease on life, they found hope, they found reason to wake up the next morning.”

Nachtigall started the art program, Kaleidoscope, at the centre eight years ago but didn’t anticipate how much it would enrich the lives of the residents.

“I thought art was just gong to be those pretty pictures on the wall that we could celebrate, but it’s a whole lot more than that. Being able to express themselves through creativity, it opened doors for them… it’s a tool for change, for advocacy.”

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For Matthew Proctor, art has helped him find his identity.

“It gave me confidence and boldness to go out in search of other pursuits in life … it’s allowed me to be creative and to feel good about my abilities.”

Proctor has lived at the centre for 16 years after an accident on the South Saskatchewan River confined him to a wheelchair. For his first eight years there, the walls were bare. Now, since Kaleidoscope’s inception, resident and staff artwork fills every vacant space.

On Oct. 2, Proctor spoke at the inaugural art symposium, Creative Communities: Conversations about the Arts in Everyday, about the impact the centre’s program has had on him.

Nachtigall said art programs are usually the first cut from budgets, and the event is a way to change that way of thinking and weave art back into the fabric of our society.

“By inviting members of the community and different organizations [to the symposium], we can talk about things like sustainability and best practices. This is really a chance to share with communities to open up their doors and see what’s possible.”