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Artists co-operative provides opportunity to create

Artwork by Ashley-Nicol

‘Little hidden gem’ uncovered by young worker and artist
Lisa Bailey

Providing an opportunity for people to create art is the focus of a co-operative funded by the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI).

“Our goal is to enable creativity without boundaries, without limits, as much as we can,” says Steve Quattrocchi, administrator of Artists Helping Artists (AhA).

Taking root in 1998 from work done by BACI, the co-operative welcomes people to become members, drop by the studio space at BACI’s main office in the Still Creek Center and create.

AhA is inclusive and community-based, founded on the belief that art is a vital element in tolerance.

People who have disabilities comprise many of the approximately 60 members, says Steve, who is also a professional artist.

He notes that AhA’s impact comes through the mental and spiritual journey of pursuing artistic expression.

“We see growth in members’ art, and the joy that that brings them.”

Members exhibit their creations, primarily paintings, in the community. A month-long showing recently concluded at the Burnaby Arts Council’s Deer Lake Gallery.

“We just want people to appreciate the art that our members create,” Steve says.

“We try not to focus on what someone’s disability might be, if they have one or not, it’s more about the creativity.

“This is what people do . . . They’re creative regardless of their challenges,” Steve says.

Amongst the pieces featured at the Deer Lake Gallery was a painting by Ashley-Nicol.

She says it was “really cool” to have her first showing as well as elected members of the B.C. and federal legislatures attend in a sign of support and recognition of people who have disabilities.

Ashley-Nicol, who is supported by BACI’s outreach service, also does photography and digital media art, and is employed as a community support worker with AhA.

Steve says Ashley-Nicol is “learning the ropes” of running an arts organization. She also supports AhA members by helping them with supplies and providing advice.

“Part of it is that we’re trying to create an environment for creativity, so a lot of Ashley-Nicol’s job is to do art and to inspire people to do art through what she’s doing,” Steve says, noting her enthusiasm is a big plus.

“She’s a real help to us,” Steve says.

Ashley-Nicol says she’s inspired by AhA members as well as opportunities she’s pursued, like a film and visual arts workshop offered by a non-profit organization in the community.

She says these experiences have helped her discover her interest in creating art, particularly in digital media, and sharing it with others.

“It’s like it was a little gem in the corner and I noticed I had a big love for it,” Ashley-Nicol says.

Her goal is to study special effects at arts school, and she wants to continue her work with AhA.

“I just love that I get to work with so many creative individuals who express themselves through so many different ways,” she says.

Citing an example of an AhA member who has cerebral palsy and paints with his feet, Ashley-Nicol says it’s “inspiring to be able to see other people and the way that they do art.”

Click here for the AhA Facebook page.

If you have a story to share or feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 25, or e-mail lisa(at)axiomnews.ca.

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