PAINTING THE TOWN CLEAN & SOBER –
February 9, 2021 – They’re just a few of the artists who live or work in the Downtown Eastside and are part of a new group called the Downtown Eastside Artists Collective. The group was started by Trey Helten, the manager of the Overdose Prevention Society at 390 Columbia St. For artists in the neighbourhood, making art is much more than a hobby: for many, art has been a lifeline through mental illness or substance use. Art has been a part of the Overdose Prevention Society for years, and the walls in its current space are covered with local artists’ work. Helten said the idea behind creating the collective is to bring the artists’ work to a wider audience, show off the latest paintings and help sell the art.
A Facebook page provides a platform to showcase the artists’ work and reach a wider group of potential buyers. “There are so many great artists in the Downtown Eastside,” Helten said, adding that encouraging people to make art is a way to “help build people up instead of knocking them down.” Shawn Hefele has drawn and painted ever since he was a kid, but there was a 10-year period of his life when he wasn’t making art. “I got really messed up on drugs and alcohol and art was not a part of me anymore,” Hefele said. “I always doodled, I always wanted to, but the drugs came first, and everything came after.” When Hefele stopped using drugs and alcohol, making art helped him stay sober. He now works at the Overdose Prevention Society. “I’ve been clean for almost 12 years,” he said, and making art has helped. “It was one of my outlets that really helped keep my mind off other stuff.”