I was warned: Lorraine Palardy is a real dynamo. Whoever largely contributed to the birth and growth of Les Impatients has lost none of its legendary energy. And his beliefs.
Posted at 7:15 am
While we hit the 30. to markand anniversary of this foundation, whose mandate is to combine artistic expression and mental health, I wanted to meet her. I was not cheated.
“This adventure has made me experience so many things. But I remember an impatient woman who said to me just before an exhibition where we saw one of her works: “I’m so glad my parents are coming, because they will see that I’m not just good at taking pills.” This sentence overwhelmed me, because it gave meaning to what we wanted to do. †
The Impatients adventure, born of a “chance of life”, according to Lorraine Palardy, has its origins in the early 1990s. “The project was supposed to last 10 days. I was president of an association of contemporary art galleries. I was asked to organize a fundraiser for the Mental Illness Foundation. The concept was based on an exhibition of works by patients of Louis-H.-Lafontaine. †
When Lorraine Palardy discovers the small temporary workshop created for the beneficiaries of the institution, she is overwhelmed.
It was both an aesthetic and a human shock. I saw people who had nothing in life, according to our conception of things, who were severely affected by mental illness and who made works with suns, houses or symbols of their childhood. It upset me.
Lorraine Palardy, who at the time knew nothing about mental illness and outsider art, decided to fully invest in a project that would provide a better structure to this combination of art and mental health. Initially, she called it the Foundation for Therapeutic Art and Raw Art of Quebec.
But in 1999, she decided to rename the organization. “This name came at the end of a long brainstorming process,” she recalls. Around midnight someone said, “It’s going to be called Les Impatients!” We wanted to get rid of the idea of the patient passively waiting for care. We also thought of impatience, this flower that grows in the shade. If you suffer from a mental illness, you have to be strong. You are often forgotten, set aside. †
Lorraine Palardy multiplies the praise when it comes time to talk about the one who unshakably supported the foundation, Clémence DesRochers. The latter was already spokesperson for Femmeuses, an exhibition and sale of works by women artists organized in Pratt & Whitney for the benefit of women’s shelters and of which Lorraine Palardy was also coordinator.
“Clemence was extraordinary, because she went with her from the start,” says Lorraine Palardy. She understood the meaning of this, which was not so clear at first. We were told to work with a hospital or school boards. We wanted a foundation that would coordinate these workshops. †
In the beginning we had to organize all kinds of events, including the famous bingos, because the funding came only from the private sector. “Health told us to look at art, and the arts told us to look at health. †
Today, Les Impatients benefits from a variety of funding sources. The foundation is present in 14 cities in Quebec. In Montreal alone, there are six workshops that welcome people from all walks of life who struggle with mental health issues.
Lorraine Palardy notes that the profile of people who attend workshops has changed over the years. We are now welcoming more young people from the DPJ. “Society has changed and so has the healthcare environment. Mental health experts know that art doesn’t just do good. Art suspends the tragedy of existence. †
Although she still volunteers for Les Impatients, Lorraine Palardy retired eight years ago. She left the reins of management to her son Frédéric. “It’s exhausting to play the official beggar. My son is busy multiplying the workshops. That said, we’ve grown in unimaginable ways in 30 years. †
At Les Impatients, we like to say that we don’t know the diagnoses of the people who come to the workshops. It’s not important.
We don’t treat disease, we welcome a person. It is fascinating to see that there is no imitation in the works they produce. There is direct writing. That’s what they think, that’s what they feel, out of all the fads. And it’s good for everyone, those who do it and those who see it.
The best way to realize this is by going to the exhibition presented from May 6 in the 1700 La Poste gallery. You will be able to see a selection of works from the collection of 15,000 pieces that Les Impatients has collected over the decades.
Rather than favoring quantity and diversity, we had the good idea to choose artists whose work shows the clout of Les Impatients. I must confess that I had some moments of great emotion.
How not to be overwhelmed by Philippe Lemaire’s drawings that all show the same thing: his father’s car that picked him up from the hospital where he was staying? This obsessive impulse shows “his father’s car” 65 times. In reality, the artist is said to have drawn it nearly 300 times. We understand from this that he lived only for his father’s visits.
How do you stay frozen for Romain Peuvion’s drawings, inspired by the theme of the piano? Peuvion witnessed the German occupation at the age of 14 and emigrated to Quebec. Suffering from a severe form of autism, he was thought to have been mute for years. By following the workshops of Impatients, he regained the use of speech.
The day before the opening, May 5, a special event will pay tribute to Clémence DesRochers. “She has withdrawn a bit today,” said Lorraine Palardy. But we still need her. It is she who carries the spirit of Les Impatients. †
So, if you want to please Clémence, go to this exhibition. It is true that it will do you good.
Exposure Nice to meet you†e! A look at thirty years of creation and hope† From May 6 to June 19 at 1700 La Poste.