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Heart Therapy: A Downtown East Side Art Show Features Unlikely Artists

Vancouver, BC – Can art heal? Try asking the artists featured in a show titled:  “Uncovering Vision: A Discovery of Art Forms by Men and Women on the Downtown East Side.” The show runs from Nov. 20-22, with an opening at 4:00pm on Friday the 20th at 361 Heatley Ave., and is sponsored by the East Side Culture Crawl.

The show is the culmination of two art programs hosted by the Union Gospel Mission for the men and women from their Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program and Women’s Drop-In Program: The Creative Journey, with artist Pamela Masik, and Photography 101, with photographer Kevin Clark.

Elizabeth, one of the women who took part in the Creative Journey class, arrived in Vancouver ten years ago with only five dollars in her pocket, fleeing an abusive relationship. Finding herself on the streets and alone, she turned to the Union Gospel Mission for help, eventually finding a home in one of UGM’s permanent supportive housing suites. She’s been through some difficult times over the last ten years, and the Creative Journey program has helped her to process those experiences.

“It isn’t just art, it’s healing,” says Elizabeth. “It’s a way to take everything that happened to me in the past and let it out. I didn’t realize I had so much emotion in me!”

Masik led the women through a ten week journey, helping them to find their own artistic voice and create several pieces each, including a mask, a charcoal drawing, and a large-format oil painting on canvas. But the women came away with more than just art. “Life out there is hard, so it was good to get in off the street and express ourselves,” says Elizabeth. “We became friends, got updates from each other and supported each other every week. We’re healing together.”

For Masik, the Creative Journey was a natural extension of her own work. She recently completed a series of 69 8’x10’ portraits of women who have been missing from Vancouver’s Downtown East Side for more than a decade, a collection titled The Forgotten. The collection will be featured in a major museum in 2011. “Facilitating the women on this creative journey has been a wonderfully transformative experience, and I believe finding one’s voice through art can be very empowering. Not only did the women create amazing art, which will be featured at the Uncovering Vision show as part of the East Side Culture Crawl, they were also offered a group art exhibition opening at Grace Gallery on Main Street on January 14th, 2010. I am proud of them for their achievements!”

Masik will continue to fund and run the program in the future. “It is a way to give back to the community, by inspiring women to find their voice through art.”

The Details:

What: Uncovering Vision: A Discovery of Art Forms by Men and Women on the Downtown East Side. Opening will be attended by many of the featured artists, Mayor Gregor Robertson, Photographer Kevin Clark, Artist Pamela Masik, and others.

When: Opening Friday, November 20th at 4:00pm; show runs Friday, Nov. 20th 4pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm

Where: Maurice McElrea Place, 361 Heatley Ave, Vancouver.

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 10 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. UGM is a proud member of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities and the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. To find out more, visit

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