Art of mental health

(Photo by Jessica Catarancuic)

This past Sunday, The Tannery in Kitchener came alive with multiple mediums of artwork depicting emotional representations of recovery from mental health and addictions issues. “From the inside out … creating awareness through art” was the result of a partnership between the Grand River Hospital, Spark of Brilliance and the Self Help Alliance.

The event focused on raising awareness of the positive contributions of people with mental illness within our community through art.  Through several art workshops hosted in the months leading up to the event, the organizations were able to involve an assorted cross section of the Kitchener-Waterloo community in the project.

Sunday’s exhibition featured paintings, textiles, as well as photographs from many of the participants.

“This year we were looking at opportunities to create awareness, looking at ways we might create stigma reduction in our community,” said Judy Shearer associate vice president of mental health and addictions program at Grand River Hospital.

The benefits of a program like this in the mental health awareness sector became far reaching as Kathy Bazinet executive director of the Self Help Alliance explained, “It gave [us] the chance to create some artistic work shops so we could invite people in … some have never been familiar with the Spark program or Self Help, so really for them it’s a first introduction to what peer support, self help and recovery is all about.”

In addition to adult members of the community, the program was able to involve local students.

Jason Panda, head of the visual arts department at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute, involved students from grade ten to 12 with his photography classes. “What it really came down to was a raw emotion, with the bigger picture of the mental health journey in mind, students were asked to focus on a step or stage associated with a strong emotion,” Panda said.

Though Sunday’s event was a competition,  many runner-up images were displayed. Additionally, honorable mention photographs were projected on large screens around The Tannery.

Jay Samuler Lefler, the first-place winner in the painting category, offered words of inspiration to others with lived experiences of mental health and addiction: “Express yourself in any way you can through art; No matter what you are feeling try to put it down on canvas.”

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