‘It gave me hope’: Art helps Edmonton woman overcome homelessness


After being diagnosed with schizophrenia and living in a homeless shelter in Edmonton, Madeline Leblanc was able to regain control of her life through art.

As a child, Leblanc was interested in becoming an artist. But in high school, she was disappointed when a friend said that the artist’s income was too low and the difference in the world was too small.

When she was 18, Leblanc was kicked out of her childhood home. After graduating from high school and working late at night in the arena, Leblanc became ill with a mental illness. Psychosis was later diagnosed as a symptom of schizophrenia.

“I started talking to birds and believed they were on a mission to save the world,” Leblanc said.

From time to time, she walked down the street all night, sleeping in random places, and once even a stream, looking for “clues” to complete her mission.

Eventually, she spent several months in a hospital in Alberta for evaluation. Former Honorary Roll student Le Blanc found it difficult to speak and write in a cohesive way.

“My heart wasn’t the same,” she said. “I just kept the art, and that was something I could do.”

Madeline LeBlanc flies after building a large paper wing created from page 903 of her medical record. (Kaylah Bhimani from Kapkeo Creative)

Later, LeBlanc participated in an art program while attending the Youth Empowerment Support Service, Edmonton’s shelter. With some encouragement, LeBlanc finally held an art show at the shelter.

“It helped keep my mind alive and rehabilitate me,” she said of CBC Edmonton. Radio active..

“It gave me hope.”

She claims that program artist Allison Tunis has rekindled her passion.

It was the art program of the Youth Empowerment Support Service that made LeBlanc aware that a future balanced with art was possible. She praises program artist Allison Tunis (left) to rekindle her passion. This is a photo of Le Blanc’s first art show. (Submitted by Madeline Le Blanc)

LeBlanc currently holds a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Alberta. She wanted to make a larger piece of art, but couldn’t afford the canvas and paints, so Leblanc started using her bed sheets and crayons.

“I like doing magical art,” she said.

In a previous project, LeBlanc built a large paper wing made from 903 pages of her medical record.

7:45Local artists exhibited at 5 Artists 1 Love

5 Artists 1 Love is an annual event that introduces Edmonton’s black art and culture. Talk to artist Madi Le Blanc. 7:45

LeBlanc is one of the artists participating in the 5 Artists 1 Love Exhibition, an annual event at the Alberta Art Gallery to promote Edmonton’s black art community. This is the 16th year.

The exhibition’s curator, Darren Jordan, said her work goes beyond traditional art and therefore includes Leblanc.

“It’s unique and colorful,” he said.

“It’s perfect for us.”

The 5 Artists 1 Love exhibition will be held at the Alberta Art Gallery from January 29th to April 3rd, introducing five different black artists from the Edmonton region.

Madeline Leblanc couldn’t afford the canvas and paints, so she turned to sheets and crayons. (Submitted by Madeline Le Blanc)

For more stories about the experience of Black Canadians, from anti-black discrimination to success stories within the black community, check out Being a Black Canadian. A CBC project that black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



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