PR-y: Les Impatients, Montréal

I spent a month back home in July, and during my stay, I took the opportunity to visit Les Impatients, a center offering art workshops and creative spaces for people who had / are dealing with psychiatric issues. This ranges from depression to bipolarity. The name, puns aside, is meant to indicate that the participants are no longer (clinical) patients.

There were a number of differences with Atelier Corners, which I am more familiar with. First is the scale. Working with about 200 impatients in 7 locations, with large galleries and studios, Les Impatients have a much broader scope. Having been established over 20 years ago (at first in a shopping mall!), their output in terms of books, merchandise and so on is impressive (although they really liked The Cornerstone, because they have never done a documentary book like ours). And thanks to their networking, they often collaborate with well established personalities. This allows them to offer more than just working space, including focused workshops and a variety of creative outlets from comics to music.

The other main difference is the situation of the participants. At Corners, the artists are not independent, that is, they could not live on their own. Most have severe forms of autism and Asperger syndrome, and thus conversation is fairly limited. The impatients, however, are for the most part independent and communication is more direct. They asked me questions, made jokes, reacted to my comments; in other words, there were real exchanges. As an example, one impatient was discussing his piece with Laura, the workshop's coordinator. I made a comment, to which he answered: Who are you? I had made the mistake of not introducing myself to him, and his reaction was totally normal. I apologized for my rudeness, and later we went on to have interesting discussions about Japan and art brut amongst others.

This leads me to the art produced at Les Impatients. Although part of the outsider art spectrum, what they produce is fairly unique in that the creators are aware of their production and its place in the art world. Also, the organization prefers to use the term therapeutic art to reinforce the idea that art is a process for the impatients to reintegrate society and communicate with others. And while the terms and activities vary, Les Impatients and Atelier Corners share in the end the same goal, that is to give, through art, a voice to a minority that is not all that different from the so-called majority.

Contrary to Corners, which is mostly government funded, Les Impatients only receives 20% of their funding from the state, meaning they need to raise the other 80%. Corporations play a big role in this, as do private donators. The center also organizes many other funding activities, whether they be auctions, CDs, Valentine Love Letter sets, and so on. Which is better is a difficult question to answer. Dependence on government funding puts you at risk, especially in these days or decreasing social spending. On the other hand, the staff at Les Impatients are constantly working to procure funding, and while some corporations do give year after year, changes in management can spell the end of sponsorship rather quickly.

On a personal level, it was a wonderful visit. As with my visits at Corners, through the interactions with the impatients and the staff, I gained a lot more than I can ever hope to give back. With what I've learned, I look forward to the next activities with PR-y, as some of the things could be adapted here I believe. Also, after talking with the people responsible at Les Impatients and Atelier Corners, the idea of having joint exhibitions was well received by all: the seed has been planted, let's hope it grows into a beautiful fruit tree.

To see more pictures and comments from my visit at Les Impatients, please follow this link.

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour!
    J'aimerais me procurer le magnifique livre «the Cornerstone».
    Où se trouve-t-il à Montréal? Merci. Maya