Discovering Hope through Art

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Story, video and images: Andy Shierson

"The Park Bench"

A downtown Oshawa artist has won best technical in the Discovering Hope Art Show for his photo “The Park Bench”.  The image will be on display at the official opening for Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences on October 22, 2011.

The talented artist, Ilija Blanusa had it all a few years ago. He had a great job as a professor at a university, a wife, a home and happiness. Then one night his life changed forever.
“I was working on my masters at a university in the States when I was involved in a fight on campus,” says Blanusa. “The guy beat my head so hard I was brain damaged and now I have a memory disorder and a speech impediment.”
While Blanusa was still in hospital recovering from the accident his wife left him, he lost his job, his home and his car. But he never lost hope.   With the love of his parents and the love of his art he shares his talents and his story as a way to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and a way to give others hope.
“When people find out you have cancer they are empathetic and caring, when they find out you have a mental illness they are scared for some reason, like their mental health will be affected by mine.”
But people should not give up hope says Blanusa.  And that’s what his image is all about. The bench provides a solid surface you can lay down on, it’s solid and it is something you can rely on no matter where you are in the world.

It was so fitting that as Ilija and I talked sitting on a park bench outside city hall, in downtown Oshawa, that the sunlight shone in just the perfect way, magically mimicking his award-winning photo.
Blanusa will be accepting his award on October 22, at 1:00 p.m. at official opening of Discovering Hope, in the Art Gallery and Conference Place, at Ontario Shores. For more information check out this website.