An upcoming art event by Northern Health called “Art Tracks: Come Walk With Me in My Shoes” promises to shed light on mental health issues. Set for launch next month, the exhibit seeks to foster dialogue and challenge the stigma faced by artists with mental health conditions.
Rowan Saunderson, the driving force behind “Art Tracks” and a member of the Terrace Mental Health Advisory Committee, noted that October is dedicated to mental health and addiction awareness so that Northern Health is partnering with local artists and the Garage Community Space on Kalum.
The committee, as Saunderson describes, “features a small group of people who have mental illness, as well as others who are service providers and community members more broadly.” They hold a dual role of advisory and advocacy for mental health and addictions services in the community, apart from hosting events to raise awareness about mental health issues.
The show will display art from more than 30 individuals, each contributing up to three pieces. “We have work that is very raw and expresses the struggles that a person has, even to just stay alive and trying to manage everything going on in their lives,” Saunderson said. “Others have used their work to process things that are difficult to talk about at a much deeper level and then there are people who create art because it’s relaxing and gives them a sense of peace.”
“I’ve seen people come into the room depressed and leave with smiles on their faces after creating art,” Saunderson added. “There’s something very special about working with art materials, colour and textures. It’s quite absorbing and engaging so long as people can let go of that internal criticism that we all face and just enter into that process.”
“Art and images can operate at a deeper level — the visual aspect of it, at least — and I think it sometimes has a greater capacity than words to express experience.”
While the exhibition is open to the public for free, some artworks will be available for purchase.
“There’s so much excitement about the show. One of the most beautiful parts of this is that people who are being judged and isolated because their mental illness are seen in a different way — and they see themselves in a different way as someone who has something to contribute. What comes with that is pride and it’s quite lovely,” Saunderson added.
Touching upon the broader goal, Saunderson emphasized, “The point is to raise awareness around the discrimination that people with mental illnesses face, as they’re often afraid to tell people that they do have a mental illness.” She went on to express concern about societal misconceptions, highlighting that “there’s a lot of stigma and bias out there against people who have a mental illness.”
Saunderson mentioned that local high school students and patrons of the Foundry will be participating in workshops.
“I think the show is about going outward and creating dialogue and community,” she said. “It’s time to start having those open dialogues about mental health and supporting each other through it.”
The exhibit takes place at the Garage Community Space, located at 3504 Kalum Street, from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6. from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. Visitors can also try their own creations using the provided supplies.
Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.