You might want to get comfortable, put your feet up and have a cup of coffee or tea. I’m not known for brevity in writing. I’d say get yourself a glass of wine but it could be morning when you read this and I don’t want to encourage undue alcohol consumption!
Way back in the 1990’s I was working as a wedding & event planner. Life took a big twist when my oldest daughter was diagnosed with an incurable progressive brain disease. During the five years of caring for her 24/7, her death, and the grief that followed, the one constant thing was my art from doing commissioned artwork or painting children’s furniture for preschools and schools. A little more about my daughter and how she inspired me.
In 2005, a unique advocacy position came up at BC Children’s Hospital and it seemed the perfect fit for both my business skills and my life experience. And it turned out to be the dream job for that time of my life, eventually morphing into a managerial position where I was able to advocate for patients and families at the highest levels, to teach healthcare professionals the meaning of “patient & family centred care” and make sure that patients & families had a voice in policy making and in the hospitals strategic directions and plans. However, the part of my job that I enjoyed the most was working to make the hospital environment better and finding homes for the various art work that had been donated. During this time I did do some creative work and painting in my spare time but it was very limited as I threw myself into my job.
In 2010 the Foundation for Hospital Art came to the hospital for a Paint-Fest. Patients, families and staff all participated in painting several beautiful canvases and a mural which brightened a long stark hallway. In 2011, I found a waiting area that needed brightening and arranged a similar event. While we were trying to find an artist to provide the art work, the mother of a patient who was assisting me suggested they could use one of my pieces of art. When I declined, she said to me, “Do you realize that every time you talk about the years you used to paint you smile? I think you should do this”. Her words struck me and I decided to take on the work.
Sitting down to paint brought everything back-the serenity, the calming of my soul and I realized I had gone far too long without spending quality time with a paintbrush. That Paint-Fest was a huge success. Parents of children who were in surgery said they felt more relaxed, children in hospital rooms forgot their worries for a few moments and one doctor who said he was going to stop & paint for 5 minutes ended up staying for 20 because it was so soothing and healing. Right after that I started painting regularly again, joined the New Westminster Artists society to become involved with my home community and decided I needed to find some way to bring more healing art into my and others lives.
In the fall of 2013 I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from an event at the hospital that re-opened the grief of losing my daughter. Again I turned to art, working on a daily art journal along with more painting. After three months of medical leave and a lot of soul searching I came to the conclusion that I could no longer work in that type of environment. I knew it was time to take a leap of faith and pursue working in the arts. But what to do? What to do?
I have a long bucket list and #239 kept staring at me, “Quit my job at the hospital to paint & write full-time”. I didn’t see how it was possible and it seemed like a very far off retirement goal. When I finally asked myself, “If I could do anything for work and wasn’t afraid to fail, what would I do?” I made a breakthrough. I’d surround myself with a community of artists & bring all of the various parts of my life together. Shortly thereafter when I was playing around on my phone looking at Instagram photos (which reminds me you should check out our Instagram account @100braidst) I came across a gift shop run by an artist. Other artists worked there, displayed their art, and held fun painting events, fine art and craft classes. The accolades from the students showed how thrilled they were to see the process artists went through and more importantly they said it made art less intimidating and that encouraged them to try something new. So my synapses started clicking and my vision for an inclusive art studio community started to come into focus.
Fast forward through a business plan, reaching out to a couple of mentors, watching a lot of TED talks, finding grants and financing & selecting a location, to taking the big leap and giving my notice. On March 1, 2014 I took possession of 5600 square feet on the first floor of the historical 100 Braid St building and after 3 months of renovations opened the doors on June 8, 2014. Fast forward five years and the studio has expanded to a second floor with 12,000 square feet and over 50 visual and performing artists. I don’t exactly get to paint and write full time but I am surrounded by a thriving community of artists and this place has become the largest art studio outside of Vancouver!
Please come and see the studio. I’d love to meet you.