Lumby resident Colleen Fielding holds a photo she took of two western kingbirds sitting on a wire that is currently on exhibition with other works at the Awakening the Spirit art show and sale at the Coatcheck Gallery in the Vernon Performing Arts Centre

Lumby resident Colleen Fielding holds a photo she took of two western kingbirds sitting on a wire that is currently on exhibition with other works at the Awakening the Spirit art show and sale at the Coatcheck Gallery in the Vernon Performing Arts Centre

Artists awaken spirits with imagery

11th annual Awakening the Spirit show and sale celebrates the strengths, talents and creativity of people living with mental illness.

Photographer Colleen Fielding has learned to trust her peripheral vision.

Out of the corner of her eye, she has been able to capture wildlife species in their natural environment that most people would drive on by, unaware.

It happened while she was visiting Mabel Lake Hall, near her hometown of Lumby.

“I saw this dark flash of movement, so I pulled up and there was a grey owl eating something on the ground. It flew off, and then when I looked up I saw another owl in a tree, its mate.”

Fielding’s photographs can be seen at the Awakening the Spirit art show and sale, currently showing in the Coatcheck Gallery, located in the lower lobby of the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Supported by the Mental Illness Family Support Centre (MIFSC) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the 11th annual show features 62 works by 25 artists and celebrates the strengths, talents and creativity of people living with mental illness.

Encouraged to enter the show by CMHA group facilitator Marie-France Ladouceur and programs director Sue Myhre, Fielding has been using a camera since the age of 12, but stopped for many years before picking it up again.

“The camera was there calling my name,” she said, adding she has gone from using a film-loading model to a digital. “I photograph mostly wildlife and birds, but have shot some portraits and weddings.”

Fielding says aiming her lens at wildlife has taught her an important virtue, patience.

“I have also learned to stand perfectly still, especially with wildlife as you don’t want to scare them off,” she said.

“I was taking photos at the opening reception (for Awakening the Spirit) and someone observed how I was so patient. Taking photos has taught me to not only be patient with wildlife but with people, which is a good thing.”

Fielding points to one of her favourite pictures  in the show, a photograph of a lone wolf.

“I carry my camera everywhere and this photo came as I was coming in from Vernon. It was out playing in the snow in Lavington. I got him just as he was catching a mouse,” she said.

Another photo of a male loon came from a visit to Echo Lake a few years ago.

“Everything to me is interesting. I take a lot of drives to find photos and there he was by himself. The water was perfect that day.”

It’s through the arts and creativity that both the MIFSC and CMHA hope to break down some of the barriers and stigma that exist with mental illness, as well as give people living with mental illness a medium through which to express themselves.

“There is a vital link between creativity and well being for all of us,” said Ladouceur. “When we are engaged in a creative pursuit there is a flood of neuron activity in our brains, producing endorphins. The release of endorphins can provide relief from pain, help with the symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as elevate mood. The power of art as a therapeutic activity can benefit the mental health of individuals and communities.”

According to MIFSC manager Dianne Hustler, one in five people will have a mental illness in his or her lifetime.

“We hope that the Awakening the Spirit art show will continue to increase awareness and get people talking about mental illness so that people know that they are not alone. The show serves as a reminder that people with mental illness live, work, and create in our community. We also hope that it will remind everyone of the importance of taking care of their own mental health.”

Awakening the Spirit can be viewed when attending performances at the Performing Arts Centre until Nov. 3, with free viewings Tuesdays from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

To make arrangements for special group viewings, contact Sue at 250-542-3114.