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Health group finds new home in the heart of arts community

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jul 21, 2014 - 2:00 PM |
Scott Glover works on a painting of Olympic medallist Clara Hughes at the Northern Initiative for Social Action's new Elgin Street location. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Scott Glover works on a painting of Olympic medallist Clara Hughes at the Northern Initiative for Social Action's new Elgin Street location. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Cultural activities key at program for mental health survivors

Now that the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) has moved its programs to what's arguably the heart of the city's arts community — the downtown — client Scott Glover said he's excited for the agency's future.

The social service organization for people with mental illness exhibits its members' work twice a year.

But Glover — who often uses NISA's arts space to work on his paintings — is hoping one of the downtown galleries will give the organization some permanent exhibit space where clients' work will have more visibility.

Before NISA moved to its new, 9,000-square-foot Elgin Street location earlier this month, it actually had two sites, one at the Kirkwood site of the North Bay Regional Health Centre and one on Elm Street.

Its arts programs — including a studio for fine artists such as Glover, and quilting, crafts and writers' circle programs — were previously run out of the Kirkwood site, located in the city's South End.

“It's nice to be in some very lovely space that's been renovated and suiting our needs,” said Shana Calixte, NISA's executive director. “It means the people who come here feel they deserve that kind of space. That's what's great.”

From its new location downtown, NISA will be in a better position to contribute to Sudbury's cultural life, she said.

“I'm really excited NISA can be a part of that,” Calixte said.

She gives the example of the annual arts tour. NISA usually participates in the yearly event, but few people actually came to see members' work because they had to travel all the way to the Kirkwood site.

“I'm hoping that people will become more interested in what's happening down here, not just around mental health and that kind of stuff, but also around the artistic endeavours that are happening,” Calixte said.

Besides being near other cultural organizations, Glover said there's a practical reason he prefers the new location.

“It's one of the reasons I stopped going as frequently out to Kirkwood, because it's a one-hour bus ride and an hour back,” he said. “Now I'm a 15-minute walk away.”

NISA, which just celebrated its 15th birthday, helps people with mental illness pursue occupational activities.

It gives them a reason to get out of the house, make friends and gain some skills so they can “reintegrate into the community,” Calixte said.

“In that way, it's a really recovery-based organization,” she said.

Besides the arts programs, NISA members are also involved in refurbishing gently-used donated computers, which are sold to the community at a low price.

It also has a mental illness crisis telephone line and provides housing support for its clients in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association and the North Bay Regional Health Centre.

Glover is currently painting six-time Olympic medallist and depression survivor Clara Hughes, who passed through Sudbury last month during a bike tour across Canada to raise awareness of mental health issues.

He got a chance to show Hughes the incomplete painting during her visit to Sudbury, and told her he'd send it to her when he'd finished it.

“It's fortunate that someone in the public spotlight will come out and speak of mental health issues,” said Glover, who suffers from bipolar disorder.

“She's got what, six Olympic medals? People may have mental health issues, but it doesn't mean they can't contribute to society in any way they can. This is my little way of doing things of that nature.”

When visited NISA, Terry Fullager was painting a skyscape to decorate a friend's new home.

She said she suffers from multiple mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and NISA gives her a stress-free place to go.
“As for this space, I think it's fantastic,” Fullager said.

“It's large enough, the office doors are still open, there's an open-door policy here, which is fantastic. There's no us and them feeling. It just feels like one big family.”

NISA is located at 36 Elgin St. For more information about the organization's services, phone 705-222-NISA (6472) or visit

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Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer


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