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Disabled Amherst artist’s talents took three decades to be discovered

After three decades of being a client at the Bridge Adult Services Centre, Gary Cormier surprised everyone when he started to draw.
After three decades of being a client at the Bridge Adult Services Centre, Gary Cormier surprised everyone when he started to draw. - Christopher Gooding

AMHERST, N.S. - Gary Cormier’s days are not like they used to be.

Gary became a client of the Bridge Adult Services Centre more than 30 years ago when he was 21. Now in his 50s, something in Gary has changed. There are a few grey hairs where there weren’t any a few years ago, but the tradeoff has been a world of colour.

Over the summer, Gary did something no one at the workshop expected: he started to draw. Soon, work-after-work was rolling from his workstation at the centre, each one a complete and telling interpretation of nature.

“He draws all birds,” Joy Legere said. “He drew a cat one day and a squirrel. But he loves birds.”

At his des,k Gary keeps a pair of resource books on birds of Nova Scotia next to a small stack of his creations.

It’s noted Gary’s father is also a talented artist, maybe making it a genetic trait, but, after three decades of dormancy, it was a surprise to everyone at the centre  to learn his flair for the arts. Those around him say something awoke in Gary when he started drawing.

“It was just out of the blue,” Legere said. “We were trying to get him more independent and work independently and, all of the sudden, he picked up the pen and paper and started. We were doing vocation-like words and then he drew a bird.”


With a portrait of himself drawn by his father displayed at his workstation, Gary Cormiers artistic talents are inspired by his love of Nova Scotia birds.


As the budding artist’s talents revealed themselves, support followed. The centre supports his drawing regime and a generous donation of 64 frames specifically for Gary was recently delivered . It takes Gary a day-and-a-half to create his one-of-a-kind pieces and he sells them at the centre for $5 each. During the summer, he sold 19 originals at the Amherst Farmers' Market.

“He’s sold quite a few. He’s done really well,” Joanne Hopper said.

Gary has always been a reliable client, Hopper said. He never wants to take a vacation and gets very excited when he has the opportunity to share his day with his family. Animated and smiling, Gary  talks with his hands when he is excited. When something positive happens, he gives you a thumbs-up or applauds. But most of all, Gary likes meeting people and his art has started a brand new conversation.

“He’s quite the conversationalist. He likes to converse,” Legere said. “He gets the most excited about going to the market. He gets to go the one day and that’s the highlight of his summer. He’s hoping he will get to do that again next summer.”

In the meantime, the Bridge Adult Service Centre’s very own artist-in-residence is as busy as one of Santa Claus’ elves making new pieces of art for the world to discover.

Located at 16 Station St. in Amherst, the Bridge Adult Service Centre is a day program for adults with intellectual disabilities, offering clients employment through services like small contracts, laundry services and a used clothing store.

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