The Atelier d’Artisanat du Centre-Ville Inc., Montreal, Quebec, was founded in 1971 as an answer to rising problems of unemployment and poverty in the downtown area of Montreal. From the outset, it was apparent that those using the centre often had problems of mental health as well; thus, the Atelier soon became experienced in this field.
In teaching crafts, the Atelier has always promoted creativity as a source of personal pride and feelings of self-worth. It also offers educational support and listening services to encourage socialization and community involvement among those with mental health problems.
The Atelier d’Artisanat du Centre-Ville Inc. has as it’s mission the social rehabilitation, through the learning of crafts, of people with mental health difficulties.
The philosophy is based on the approach of occupational therapy and the healthful results of artistic creation. We consider that artistic/craft creativity is a therapy in itself. It helps people to find their autonomy and self-worth.
At the Atelier, personal rebuilding is based on the following principles:
-Creating with one’s hands fosters good health;
-Learning new skills promotes increased self confidence;
-Striving to produce a good product encourages discipline and good judgment;
-Developing a supportive network helps a person to face day-to-day difficulties;
-Participating in an alternative resource in mental health contributes to reducing the length and frequency of hospital visits.
In regard to social rehabilitation, we believe:
-Ending isolation and developing a social life are important factors;
-Group work helps to improve relations with other people;
-Coming to the Atelier and taking part in learning activities increases a person’s sense of belonging and responsibility;
-Increasing a person’s autonomy facilitates their ability to look for work.
The approach involves a progressive ‘apprenticeship’ which leads to the acquisition of new life skills.
Since it resembles a workplace, the Atelier gives a person a chance to follow at his/her own pace the uphill path to autonomy and to taking control of their future. For example, the requirements regarding output, punctuality and quality of production resemble those of the job market.
By creating artistic work in his/her chosen discipline (weaving, silkscreen block printing, sewing, stained glass, copper enameling, and jewelry) the student sees the work process from a new angle and discovers a different way to achieve success.
Creativity calls for imagination, daring and perseverance while developing coordination, dexterity, concentration and memory. Each discipline has been chosen to facilitate all of these abilities. In addition, the exhibiting and selling of work is a source of pride and self-esteem for the person.
Believing in a group approach, the Atelier offers instruction in closely related activities, which also facilitate social interaction.
Four different training programs are offered, each planned to meet the needs of those living with psychological distress. The typical learning structure consists of eight students working with a teacher-artisan.