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Emily Carr University, UGM + Rennie Collection collaborate to bring art, education and healing to the Downtown Eastside

Vancouver, BC—The Rennie Collection, Union Gospel Mission and Emily Carr University of Art + Design are working together to create original works of art for members of the community struggling with homelessness, poverty and addiction. Conducted through an Emily Carr class, The Vicinity of Painting, senior art students will work with UGM, and each other, to create paintings for the Mission’s large dining room in the new facility on East Hastings.

While making the dining room warmer, welcoming and more attractive, the paintings also send a deeper message. “In addition to the practical challenges faced by many of the people we serve, there are greater questions of self-worth,” explains J. Stewart UGM’s Communication Manager. “Beauty emanating from art has long been shown to promote inner healing among many of us. Hanging art in a room communicates that this space is valuable, and so is the audience who receives it.”

It’s that intentional thinking that kicked off the three-way collaboration. Since opening its new building, UGM has been inviting artists to loan from their collection to brighten the walls of the multi-purpose facility. UGM art task force volunteer Richard Deacon invited Bob Rennie, one of Canada’s leading collectors, to get involved. With Rennie’s deep involvement, both as a long-time supporter and Board Member of Emily Carr, and his knowledge of the University’s history of community engagement, the connection fell into place quite naturally.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Union Gospel Mission on this site-specific art project,” says David MacWilliam, Emily Carr’s Dean, Faculty of Visual Art + Material Practice. “The class provides students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working within our community in a truly meaningful location. We’re grateful to the staff at the Rennie Collection for establishing this connection for us.”

“The Vicinity of Painting provides us with a wonderful opportunity to be part of a project that creates original works of art for members of a broad, diversified community, breaking down some barriers and enabling dialogue on social issues through art, which is an important part of our collection and mandate,” says Bob Rennie, Principal of the Rennie Collection, located in Chinatown’s oldest building, only blocks away from UGM. “At the same time, we’re helping to create a safe place for emerging artists. We can’t think of a project that better reflects the Rennie Collection’s values.”

Students have already spent time volunteering at UGM, gaining understanding of the community and space they will be creating for. They work under the direction of Emily Carr Professor Yunhee Min, who previously taught at the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She is co-founder of Silvershed, an artist-run space in New York.

“The students have been exceptional,” says Stewart. “We love their genuine curiosity and sensitivity to the community and look forward to what they will create.”

UGM has been especially active in the arts recently, participating in Vancouver’s Eastside Culture Crawl, and offering Photo 101 and Art From The Heart to the DTES community.

Photo 101 gives community members cameras to explore their neighbourhood and capture beauty while they learn about photography and composition. As a result, three participants are in process of creating a photography business. Facilitated by an Art Therapist, Art From The Heart encourage participants to reach within and express themselves creatively through healing art. The classes have been made possible through community partnerships with renowned photographer Kevin Clark, internationally renowned artist Pamela Masik, Opus Art Supplies, Rocket Repro and Beau Photo.

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for over 70 years. Through its 9 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside


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