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Orillia artist turns over new leaf to help combat mental illness

'The goal is to end the stigma surrounding mental health and start a conversation,' says Charles Pachter of ambitious Maple (Re)Leaf campaign

Renowned Canadian artist Charles Pachter has created the signature artwork for the national Maple (RE)Leaf campaign which aims to help end the stigma of mental health through the power of art.

The 78-year-old Orillia resident says he was approached last year by a collector of his artwork to get involved with the Maple Re(Leaf) project.

“The idea was to do a conceptual art piece that would reflect Canada and give some sort of visibility to the issues with mental health across the country,” Pachter said.

“We came up with the idea of a green flag because the colour green is used for mental health awareness," explained Pachter, who is well known for his paintings of the maple leaf.

"So, I came up with one of my paintings which I had done back in 1981 and I tweaked it many times in Photoshop to turn it green, and we added that and a maple leaf to a spike," said Pachter. "They were then printed on a form, converted to aluminum, baked, and manufactured."

Pachter’s design has sold more than 1,000 pieces so far; some will be on display at various public sites across the country.

Pachter is thrilled to be able to use his art to help spread awareness and raise funds for mental health. 

“The pandemic has raised so many mental health issues for people of all stripes and all ages," Pachter said. "However, one of the ironic gifts for artists is isolation is normal, we don’t think of it as punishment.

"I’ve spent the last year and a half getting more paintings done than I would have done pre-COVID, so I feel very fortunate that I have my Orillia studio,” he explained.

“My Orillia studio is my favourite studio. It’s convenient, it’s quiet, peaceful, it has wonderful friends and neighbours. I’ve had a grand time living in this area, and I now have a compound of four buildings with a courtyard. It really is my oasis and my retreat.”

Pachter is aware that not everybody has been able to escape the anxieties of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why he is using his artwork to help lend a hand.

“I think in time we will look back on all this as a true test of human endurance and that’s why I think this project is so timely and I’m grateful I am able to help,” he said.

“I think we often overlook the fact that there are mental illnesses, but mental illness is prevalent, it’s a part of human behaviour," Pachter said. "You have to be grateful if you’re surviving and feeling a measure of happiness and contentment, but we all know that it is an affliction, it’s something we have to address, and it’s been compounded so much by the pandemic and people feeling isolated and lonely.” 

Thursday, Aug. 12 is an important day in the campaign Pachter says of Maple (RE)Leaf Day.

“Volunteers, politicians, and celebrities are going to be posting about mental health on their social media (on Aug. 12) and we ask folks to join us in doing the same," he said.

“The goal is to end the stigma surrounding mental health and start a conversation to hopefully lessen the impacts of mental health,” he explained.

Purchasing a piece of Pachter’s art will benefit one of 18 Canadian hospitals or mental health organizations of the donor’s choice. The campaign runs until Oct. 10, and you can purchase a leaf for $30 here.

“Maple (RE)Leaf has become a movement, and I am truly touched to be a part of it. So, I hope you get on board and see if you can help," Pachter said. 

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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