News / Ottawa

Salvation Army to showcase addicts' art

As many as 100 art pieces will be on display this Thursday at the Salvation Army downtown, all created in the organization's weekly art therapy classes.

Darnell Strachan shows the work he created in an art therapy class at the Salvation Army on Oct. 17, 2016. There will be a public exhibition of the class's work this coming Thursday.

David Kawai / For Metro

Darnell Strachan shows the work he created in an art therapy class at the Salvation Army on Oct. 17, 2016. There will be a public exhibition of the class's work this coming Thursday.

Under a haze of bright blue paint, Jason DeMille’s long journey to recovery is faintly visible.

“This is me when I was happy, years ago,” says DeMille, pointing to a stick figure in the corner.

A series of stick figures capture his descent into addiction, until one is lying on the ground surrounded by needles. “This is when I started using,” he says.

In the centre of the page, DeMille has drawn a large tombstone. It simply reads, “RIP. 1970-2016.”

DeMille was shooting heroin until 35 days ago, when he told his mother and girlfriend he was suicidal. He was hospitalized and then transferred to Ottawa for rehab.

DeMille’s feeling good, but he knows how close a call it was.

“I knew how I was going to do it,” DeMille said. “I already had the heroin at home, if I’d gone home I would have shot it all and I would have been dead.”

DeMille admits he’s no artist, but on Monday afternoon he joined seven other addicts around a craft table at the Salvation Army shelter downtown for two hours of art therapy.

It’s part of their stabilization program before they enter the long-term rehab program.

On Thursday afternoon, the shelter will showcase as many as 100 pieces of art produced over the past year by clients just like DeMille, as part of its annual public art show.

“It’s an opportunity for feeling self-esteem,” said art facilitator Jadzia Romaniec. “Do you know how nice that is (for these guys) to see your piece and it’s nicely mounted? It just lifts the spirit.”

Romaniec said the weekly therapy has many benefits for a recovering addict. They learn new tools for stress reduction, sociability, and problem solving.

But on a deeper level, the guided sessions also give them an outlet to express feelings they might not otherwise be able to articulate.

“The art is a jumping-off point, it’s a way to enter deep feelings,” she said.

The free, public art show runs from 1-3 p.m. Thursday at the Salvation Army shelter on George Street.

Metro Savers