Bernadette Kroft is showing some of her mixed media works at the group exhibition and sale

Bernadette Kroft is showing some of her mixed media works at the group exhibition and sale

Artist finds her way back to drawing board

Coldstream's Bernadette Kroft joins fellow artists in exhibit celebrating the talents of people living with mental illness.

There was a time when Bernadette Kroft always had a paintbrush or pencil in hand.

Art helped the longtime Coldstream resident get through a somewhat turbulent childhood and was there for her when life dealt her tough challenges as an adult.

Now a constant creator in all manners and mediums of art, Kroft is one of the participants who is part of the 12th annual Awakening the Spirit art show and sale, which celebrates the creative talents of people living with mental illness.

Sponsored by the Mental Illness Family Support Centre (MIFSC) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the exhibition at the Vernon Performing Art Centre’s Coat Check Gallery features 23 artists who have 33 pieces of art displayed.

The CMHA reports that when art is created, there’s a flood of neuron activity in the brain, producing endorphins. The release of those endorphins can provide relief from pain, help with symptoms of anxiety or depression, as well as elevate mood.

However, Kroft says that people can do artwork and not always be happy.

“It depends on where the art takes you,” she said.

Kroft became interested in art at the age of four, and in elementary school could always be found drawing or painting. Being creative helped her through the stresses of moving from place to place when she was young.

“Art was something I could pick up wherever. It helped with the stress of moving and losing friends – we moved 20 times in my youth. Art was relatively consistent and some of my teachers were better than others,” she said.

Although her work was often praised by instructors, Kroft did manage to impress one of her tougher critics with a picture she’d  drawn of a kitten with a ball of yarn.

“My mom could be a bit more critical, but this time she said, ‘that’s really good,’” said Kroft. “The funny story is that I had traced it. My twin sister did a similar drawing, and drew it, not traced it, and my mom didn’t say anything to her.”

Kroft went beyond tracing, but eventually stopped making art for a 20-year period to look after her son who was born with juvenile rheumatic arthritis.

“My son had many ailments as a child – E. coli, meningitis. He’s the main reason I stopped my art. Then, I became sick,” she said.

Between being a wife, a mother (Kroft also has a daughter) and running a dairy farm, the stress, she says, was too much to handle.

“I had a lot of stress because my family was generally poor and I had married into a middle class family. I tried to keep up with that,” she said. “When I broke down, I was able to come out of it, but over the years it does take a toll out of you.”

Kroft returned to her art when her son started getting better, and she has been creating ever since.

Her work for Awakening the Spirit includes a collage made from discontinued wallpaper and textile upholstery, and a photograph she took of a red-tailed hawk that she then manipulated using PhotoShop.

“My work fluctuates. I do something different all the time, from realistic to surrealism to abstract. I also love to draw plants and animals, big and small. I don’t limit myself to anything in particular,” said Kroft, who also salvages frames and fixes them up for some of her works.

Kroft has also created some inventive pieces using household and found items through Gishwhes ( –  a massive global scavenger hunt that is described as “part silliness, part art, part kindness and 100 per cent fun.”

“I made portraits of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) with salt and pepper and Taylor Swift with beans,” she said. “On one, we had to make a dress out of paper and also do a puppet show for kids. I also took a photo of a teddy bear paragliding.”

Kroft also volunteers her services to create some of the creepy makeup and costumes for the Okanagan Science Centre’s haunted house and O’Keefe Ranch’s haunted corn maze.

Kroft, along with other local artists involved with the Awakening the Spirit show will be selling some of their works via art cards at the Vernon CMHA’s Georgette Shop in October.

The public can view Awakening the Spirit (all works are for sale) until Nov. 2 at the Coat Check Gallery during performances at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre as well as on Tuesdays from noon to 1:30 p.m. For a special viewing, contact Sue at 250-542-3114.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Overwhelming support for Vernon businesses this holiday season: Chamber

Vernon chamber urges shoppers to keep dollars local amid pandemic with #voteVernon campaign

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to reports of a structure fire on Valleyview Place Jan. 26, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
Fire snuffed in Vernon home

No visible smoke, flames from area of reported structure fire

Vernon’s Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Another death linked to COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon care home

It’s the sixth death at Noric House related to the virus to date

Design rendering for the proposed Coldstream Community Centre. An advisory committee will make a decision on the latest site plan Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (Sahuri & Associates rendering)
Coldstream committee to review latest designs for new community centre

Design renderings have been released for the centre that would add 84 local child care spaces

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Kevin Lee Barrett pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother Eleanor Holmes on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (File)
West Kelowna man who beat his mom could be sentenced up to 9 years

Kevin Barrett entered a surprise guilty plea to the lesser charge of aggravated assault on Tuesday morning

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

11 more cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster on Big White Mountain. Pictured above is TELUS park at Big White Ski Resort, Jan. 26. (Big White Ski Resort)
11 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

This brings the total case count to 225, according to health authorities in a Tuesday update

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

Oliver Elementary School
Former Oliver PAC treasurer charged with fraud returns to court

Belinda Yorke will be in court to fix a date for trial in February

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Most Read