Linwood House Art Experience: How Marcy Became an Artist


By Idelette McVicker

The beauty of this art show isn’t necessarily in the mastery and creativity of some of the Sunshine Coast’s best artists. What makes the Linwood House Art Experience profound, is the exhibition of professional artists right alongside art by women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada.

The smile on Marcy’s (pictured below on the far left) face lit up the room as she introduced me to the art on display like a fine curator. She was so proud to show me her work, to talk about it: a beautiful piece in charcoal … circles and shapes in graphic formation. A few fingerprints pressed at the top of the page. Marcy was one of several women from the Downtown Eastside who had never done any art until this past summer when she participated in a three-day retreat at Linwood House called The Journey. Afterwards the same group of women continued their education with an eight-week course at the studio of Vancouver Artist Pamela Masik.

Marcy couldn’t be more animated than when she told me about their string art project. The day they dipped pieces of string in paint and moved them around on paper to create beautiful artwork. With every paintbrush dipped, every mark made, women who were formerly defined by their stories of abuse, poverty, addiction, homelessness or prostitution began tapping into a creativity that had never been encouraged. Never been celebrated. Until this past summer.

Now they are artists. The framed works on display don’t lie.

Then the clincher: Todd Clark, one of the professional artists exhibiting under the marquee tent that day, bought Marcy’s charcoal piece. The news spread fast. Although Marcy couldn’t be there for the moment–the Downtown Eastside artists had to leave on an earlier ferry–her Linwood House cheerleaders bounced with excitement.

“It was a tough decision,” Clark admitted. “If I could buy them all, I would have, because they’re just fabulous.” In explaining his decision for purchasing Marcy’s particular piece, he said: “The simplicity of it is so beautiful, I’d love to hang it on my wall … This is fantastic art.”

According to Sue Todd, who helps facilitate The Journey, for the women, being part of the Art Experience begins to restore a sense of dignity and value. “For many of our friends when they’re dealing with addiction and mental illness, addiction and poverty and all of the issues associated with that, there’s a dulling of creativity.” Through creating art, however, the women are reminded of the creative spirit within them. “(It) helps them see that they are more than their pain, “ said Todd. “They’re more than a drug addict, more than a prostitute, more than a homeless woman, but they actually are a creative, beautiful, inspired woman.”

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