The Impatients are 30 Years Old

By Alexandra Grenier

For 30 years, people with mental health issues have been able to put some balm on their wounds thanks to Les Impatients. This non-profit organization uses art activities to help the mentally ill by providing them with a non-judgmental space to create.

Founded in 1992 by Lorraine Palardy, Les Impatients continue to expand and take on new projects. They’ve notably held exhibitions in numerous places such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Québec as well as at the 1700 La Poste art gallery. Their exhibit Change le monde, une œuvre à la fois! (Change the world, one work at a time!) is in its 11th edition.

Before creating Les Impatients, Mme. Palardy owned her own art gallery for 15 years. It was when she put on an exhibition with the patients of the Louis H. Lafontaine mental hospital that she saw how important art is for mental patients. Two years later, she sold her gallery in order to give herself over full time to Les Impatients. Eight years ago, her son Frédéric Palardy took over the reins of this organization.

Even if she isn’t running things anymore, Mme. Palardy is always present in her own way. “She is still the heart and soul of Les Impatients,” her son declares without hesitation. She still comes to the office about twice a week.

“I’m involved in my heart, but not in action!” Mme. Palardy adds. For her, Les Impatients were never really work. “That was a part of my life and I imposed it on my children a little when they were young. It was part of their activities… forced, even! I brought them along with me. And I think their interest has remained. Even my other children keep up with our activities,” the founder explains, laughing.

Despite this long-term link, Frédéric Palardy never thought he’d take the leadership of the organization. This ex-lawyer took the big decision after losing his job as the chief of staff for the former CEO of the Rona home supplies company, Robert Dutton. He was a family friend and a board member of Les Impatients. Frédéric recalls: “He said to me, Why don’t you take over Les Impatients? At first, it was a no. But then I reflected a bit. I already had some goals in mind for the Impatients, so I said, Why not?

It was a relief to his mother, who recalls that their board was anxious about the group’s succession: “I was worried because I said to myself, Les Impatients is a complicated thing. It takes someone who is an art aficionado and who has a managerial sense, but who also has empathy, a heart as big as the whole Earth.”

New Objectives

With the arrival of a new director, new ways of doing things were also established. Frédéric’s main task at the beginning was to right the group’s finances. “I came from the private sector,” he explains, “with lots of means, and here things were tight. It had been that way for a long time. We had to fix that if we were to grow.” But even if the Impatients aren’t rolling in gold, their finances are no longer an issue, Frédéric says.

For eight years, Frédéric has been following the same game plan, to grow the organization. “Right now we have 22 sites. We want a lot more. We’ve started to diversify our clientele, and that’s helped us grow.” Before, only the heaviest, most severe psychiatric cases could join the workshops. That offer was expanded to less severe cases just before the pandemic hit,

“Over the course of the first 20 years,” explains the founder, “we had a clientele that had been institutionalized for a long time. That certainly affected the tone of our workshops and of the collection.” And that collection included over 15,000 works created in workshops, many of which were exhibited by major museums such as Quebec City’s Musée de la Civilisation and the Centre des Sciences de Montréal.

A New Wind

Opening the door to less severe cases was a good idea, Mme. Palardy argues. “It gave Les Impatients a new élan. In my opinion, it was essential because mental illness doesn’t just affect people in institutions.”

At the outset, it was seeing that institutionalized persons had no artistic activities that motivated her to create Les Impatients: “The philosophy back then put value in work. They forgot that art can also be rewarding. We had to battle to show that our activities had some value. That was the main struggle when we began.”  

Frédéric also thinks that the pandemic has fostered a respect for art. “Nowadays no one doubts that art and creativity can improve mental health. And mental health also includes depression, worry and anxiety, when we didn’t talk about these aspects before.”

Now that art has found its rightful place, Les Impatients can concentrate on expanding the services it offers. Its next goal is to venture into military institutions. “We go where we’re needed,” Frédéric explains.

Creating Without Being Judged

Les Impatients offer their clientele a free space, a secure place where creation is at the heart. “Safe space is really the right expression. Because it’s a place where you can do what you want, without being judged,” Lorraine Palardy notes.

It’s also a context within which there is no treatment plan and no fixed time limit. “When they come here, they aren’t here for just three weeks only to give their place up to another so we can have one more participant in our books,” the founder says.

This is one of the aspects of the program that makes Frédéric especially proud. “I never researched this, but I am convinced that we are almost unique in the world. A place where you can go with no fixed time limits, and for free. You come back week after week, without needing any goal.” The facilitators aren’t there to overlook what progress participants make, but simply to guide and help them in the creative process.   

They also aren’t there to teach. “The goal isn’t to learn,” Mme Palardy explains. “Because in most other workshops, there’s some notion of skills and abilities, whereas here, it’s the creative aspect that counts.”

Frédéric wants to underscore the role of the facilitators, without whom they wouldn’t be what they are today. “The most important thing is that they like people,” he says.

Mme Palardy adds: “Empathy begins with hello. You can have competent people with extraordinary knowledge, but who sadly have no empathy. It’s a recipe that is at the same time simple and complicated.”

– To participate in workshops given by Les Impatients, you have to be referred by a health care professional. If you or someone in your circle suffers from mental health problems and wishes to participate in a creative artistic workshop, talk about Les Impatients with your health care professionals.  

– For further information on the Impatients’ different events, visit

First seen on the Reflet de Société website

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