Art Exhibition: Seeing/Being Seen

Sponsored by: 

This virtual art exhibition celebrates the vision and creative expression of people who are often pushed to the margins because of differences in physical or mental ability, poverty, mental illness, homelessness, addictions, or systemic racism. In sharing their art, these artists courageously ask to be seen, challenging us to remember that we all have gifts to share no matter our circumstances.

Click on the names below to learn more about the inspiring artists in the exhibition and view thumbnails of their work (click on the images to expand). You can also view examples of artist-led community projects and art created in programs run by non-profit housing associations and social services agencies. Interested in learning more or purchasing artwork? Contact the artists and programs through the links provided in the descriptions.

 

    Art Groups and Programs

  • CMHA Kelowna Artworks Studio
  • Kinsmen Lodge Art Therapy Program
  • Kootenay Society for Community Living
  • My Artist's Corner
  • PotteryWorks Colour Collective
  • Skwachàys Lodge
  • Studio Seventy Three
  • Artist-led Projects

  • Crossing Bridges Arts Outreach
  • Masks We Wear
  • Murals (Nika Vaughan)
  • Artists with Lived Experience

  • Aaron Zacharias
  • A J Brown
  • Asli Dawn
  • Edzy Edzed
  • Glenn Hesse
  • Iris Mes-Low
  • Kelly Haydon
  • Mike Levin
  • Nina Aldewood
  • Patricia Wilson
  • Sandra Yuen
  • Tadafumi Tamura

CMHA Kelowna Artworks Studio

The ArtWorks Studio partnered with local community venues to present the “Artists Among Us” exhibit, a collection of art created by participants in the studio. This exhibit demonstrated themes of community, belonging and hope, challenging visitors in their assumptions about people with mental illness. It is by challenging assumptions that we can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, which is often the biggest barrier to people receiving the help and support that is available. Our best prevention strategy is stigma reduction.

ABOUT

The Canadian Mental Health Association – Kelowna’s Artworks Studio is part of the Wellness Development Centre program designed to promote wellness and build community for adults experiencing mental health concerns. The ArtWorks Studio is a safe, comfortable and welcoming space for those who wish to learn new skills, have an avenue for self-expression and create art as a pathway to wellness. It is a space for creative exploration that means different things to different people—joy, self-discovery, quiet, a wellness tool for recovery, focus, community, relationships, technique, skill and fun.

The studio offers art classes, taught by local artists, covering a wide variety of techniques and mediums.

CONTACT

Website: www.cmhakelowna.org
Email: wes.zawertailo@cmha.bc.ca

Kinsmen Lodge Art Therapy Program

Focusing on an individual’s strengths, interests and abilities in the creative process contributes to resilience and healing. Making art is one way to continue growing, learning and exploring through all stages of life. For some it becomes a passion, for others it helps with pain management, depression or anxiety, and helps to combat loneliness, and bring meaning to the day. A supportive and inclusive creative environment which honours contributions large and small, helps everyone to feel seen, heard and valued within the community.

Mural #1: This mural was created around Valentines Day and included pieces by elders, volunteers and visiting family members. Some elders remembered former loves or spouses. Some shared feelings of love for friends, family and care givers.

Mural #2: Springtime at Kinsmen. This group project involved many elders and a few volunteers who brainstormed ideas that represented spring. In the end, we decided to paint our own garden. Since our cat “Harris” kept lying in the middle of the outstretched canvas we painted him in the centre, just where he likes to be!

Images 3 & 4: Art in the Garden. During the Covid outbreak and our period of restricted visitation, we were given several large boxes of old film canisters to repurpose into art for the garden. Requiring many layers of paint and varnish, these became a focal point, and kept hands busy through many hours, culminating in magical pieces of art that twist and turn with the wind, adding life and colour to the garden. We have completed about 30 to date. Several are in the garden and some have been gifted back to the community.

ABOUT

Kinsmen Lodge is a long term complex care home housing 157 elders. We are a multicultural residence, and a learning centre that truly values community outreach and community involvement. We strive to create a warm, inclusive, home environment. Our art/Art Therapy programming emphasises self-expression and connection through working and creating together. Elders have opportunities to create individual art work as well as participate in a variety of ever changing group projects which allow elders to share strengths, ideas and the excitement of creating art. Showing the work gives honour to the artists and enhances and enriches our environment.

CONTACT

Website: https://kinsmenlodge.ca/

Kootenay Society for Community Living

ABOUT

Kootenay Society for Community Living has been providing service for 70 years, supporting adults and youth who are living with developmental disabilities and spectrum disorder in Castlegar, BC. Our programs allow individuals to participate and contribute fully as valued members of the community.

The artwork is by some of our talented individuals who attend our day program at Community Options.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.ksclcastlegar.net
Email: co@teamkscl.ca

My Artist's Corner

These artworks have been chosen with the themes of resilience and healing in mind.

Shirley's 'All Lives Matter' echoes some of the equity work being done currently. Anne's 'Portrait' explores loneliness and belonging. Carmen's 'Nature's Inner Child' reflects some of her thoughts on consciousness and identity. Lem's 'Eagle' is about strength and resilience: “No matter how much you fall down, always try to go back up. It goes the same way with mental health because I have more understanding and empathy with people living with mental health. My recovery from mental health is like flying like an eagle soaring onto the sky which makes me a better version of myself.”

ABOUT

My Artist's Corner is an art program for artists living with mental health issues and residing in Burnaby and New Westminster. Recently registered as a charity, it is a peer-led, peer-run group of 20 active artists operating out of the ECHO Clubhouse (Burnaby Mental Health Clubhouse). Artists report improvements in ability to focus, calmness, overall wellness, sense of purpose, as well as experiencing reduced isolation. My Artist’s Corner is running a modified, physically distanced program, two days a week.

CONTACT

Website: http://www.myartistscorner.ca
Email: myartistscorner.1@gmail.com

PotteryWorks Colour Collective

611 Columbia Street

Bleeding Into Blue

Friendship Garden

Sunshower

As artists overcoming disability through the practice of art, Dan Tell, James Lash, Geoffrey Lee, and Tom Mackie have used painting as a platform to integrate with their community and be recognized as contributors to it. The development of their skill is both therapeutic—contributing to improved hand eye coordination and concentration—as well as improving their self-esteem and confidence.

The power of the painted image is historic in our culture, so for artists on the Autism Spectrum or other disabilities to express their view through this medium is transformative. Each of these four artists has a unique view to offer us, an expression of their experience and communication with us.

ABOUT

PotteryWorks was started in June, 2000 with 6 artists and a few supplies kept in a closet at a Community Living Society Day Program. Over the past 19 years, it has grown to include The Colour Collective, a group of painters who exhibit across the lower Mainland of B.C. and Snap Photo Club, who exhibit their photos at various shows. Today, there are approximately over 40 artists who use the PotteryWorks studio. Our artists create original works of art for exhibition and sale. The funds go straight into the artists pocket as well as back into helping the studio continue to function. Some of our artists receive support, others attend independently; each inspiring one another to reach their artistic aspirations. Working artists provide instruction for those who want to improve their skills and talents, PotteryWorks artists have exhibited their work at shows and galleries all over the Lower Mainland.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.potteryworks.ca/
Facebook: PotteryWorks-CommunityLivingSociety
Instagram: @potteryworkscls
Email: potteryworks@communitylivingsociety.ca

Skwachàys Lodge

Raven & Mermaid

Raven & Mermaid - Original Painting

Foot Prints - Past Present
Future Original

Heading Home

Like many other businesses, the pandemic has had a devastating financial effect on us. The Artists in Residence opportunity at Skwachàys Lodge is a unique and life-changing housing program for practicing Indigenous artists. This includes subsidized housing in clean, unfurnished bachelor suites, 24/7 access to shared artist workshops, and access to programming opportunities for personal and professional development that help artists develop their craft and move into the next phase of their careers. The housing subsidy for the 24 Artists in Residence is over $200,000/year and is funded entirely through the profits generated by the Hotel and Gallery. If we cannot continue to achieve that goal, two things will happen for sure: the Hotel & Gallery will shut down and the Artist in Residence program will end.

One of the measures we are taking to avoid that outcome before international borders re-open and people begin to travel again is to provide a Crowdfunding Campaign with six different contribution amounts that offers you the opportunity to make a difference and help us keep our Indigenous Artist in Residence Program.

ABOUT

Envisioned by Vancouver Native Housing Society as an innovative funding model for supportive housing, Skwachàys Lodge and Gallery is a social enterprise which provides the subsidy for a 24-unit artist-inresidence program. Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel and named Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Places in 2018, Skwachàys Lodge combines art and culture with exceptional hospitality. Eighteen one-of-a-kind guest suites, designed by local Aboriginal artists and Vancouver interior designers, tell stunning visual stories about First Nations culture and feature original artwork created by the participating artists.

CONTACT

Crowdfunding Campaign: Making a Difference for Indigenous Artists @Skwachàys
Website: https://skwachays.com/
Facebook: @skwachayslodge
Twitter: @SkwachaysLodge
Instagram: @skwachayslodge

Studio Seventy Three

Modern Coasters

Giraffe

Peacock Bowl

Mandala

As artists, we believe that art is a universal language that stretches across all people. We are also people who receive support for a variety of reasons, including mental health. We do believe that our work relates to the themes of housing, homelessness, mental health, addictions, resilience and healing as we have all experienced one or more of these things in our own lives. Art is a wonderful way to express ourselves, relieve stress and build confidence.

ABOUT

Studio Seventy Three is a fused glass Studio and Gallery located in Surrey. The artists here create beautiful, handcrafted, one of a kind fused glass that is both decorative and functional. They are also integral in the running of our Newton business. The artists are engaged in all sales, networking, and marketing. While promoting awareness, access, participation and appreciation of the arts within community, they bring with them a new way of looking at our culture. They continue to give back to community by volunteering in things such as Adopt-A-Street or fundraising for the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Not only are these artists assisting to build and grow a more sustainable and enjoyable community, they are bridging the gap among community members - where everyone can be seen as truly valued citizens in an inclusive community.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.studioseventythree.ca
Instagram: @studio73_surreybc
Email: studio73@communitylivingsociety.ca

Crossing Bridges Arts Outreach

4 Directions - Big Feathers 1

4 Directions - Big Feathers 2

Ghouls of Fort Alexander
Residential School

Red Dress Regalia, Student Work

Crossing Bridges recently provided a workshop series to the students of Twin Rivers Education Centre and Four Directions Storefront Schools, where the students were led on an exploration of identity through art. The Crossing Bridges instructor first led students on an exploration of themes and motifs that were meaningful to them. The students then made stencils from these images and learned how to airbrush their images onto lazer-cut wooden feathers (to be mounted on the school fence in celebration of each student’s unique identity and contribution).

Also included is artwork from one of our Crossing Bridges Instructors, Mike Alexander (Thundercloud Designs). Mike is currently working with Four Directions on a series of graphic novels to delve further into identity and culture, helping students find ways to express their story through art. Mike Alexander is an Anishinaabe artist from Swan Lake First Nation in Treaty #1 territory in Manitoba, now relocated to his new home in Kamloops, BC, Canada.

ABOUT

Kamloops Arts Council - The Crossing Bridges Arts Outreach is an interactive multidisciplinary collaboration among the arts community, social service agencies and the at-risk communities they serve. Crossing Bridges delivers high-quality arts workshops to individuals who are vulnerable, at-risk, in crisis and in recovery. Crossing Bridges participants are provided a chance to explore their creativity and build their self-confidence in a supportive environment. The program employs local artists and art therapists, giving them the opportunity to develop arts workshops that will advance participants’ personal and social development. Our philosophy: Each person, no matter how marginalized, should have an opportunity to access and creatively express themselves, experience a sense of connectedness and a chance to be a contributing member of their community.

CONTACT

Website: https://kamloopsarts.ca/programs/crossing-bridges
Email: outreach@kamloopsarts.ca

Masks We Wear

Masks We Wear is a community arts dialogue that explores the faces we present to the world and those we perceive others wear. Beneath the mask shines our collective humanity.

Open dialogue is a critical step in addressing the overdose crisis. The numbers of overdose deaths reported in the media represent sons and daughters, parents of children, loved ones who have been torn from the fabric of their families. Stigma is “an attribute or quality which ‘significantly discredits’ an individual in the eyes of others”. People who use substances are keenly aware of the stigma related to substance use. Stigma prevents us from coming together in community to work towards effective solutions.

ABOUT

Throughout August 2020, leading up to International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, the Mission Overdose Community Action Team (MOCAT) hosted a series of mask making workshops. The sessions were facilitated by community artist and MOCAT project coordinator Kat Wahamaa. Downtown Mission businesses and organizations displayed the artwork for Overdose Awareness August 31- September 3.

The mixed media artworks were created by 48 community members from age 17 to 72, many with lived experience - including family members, service providers, and others with a desire to learn more about this opioid health emergency. The sessions generated thought-provoking pieces and, through exhibition, invites the whole community into dialogue.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.stopodmission.ca/
Youtube: Masks We Wear - drop the stigma, drop the mask.
Facebook: @stopoverdosemission

Murals (Nika Vaughan)

Through working on these murals I discovered unexpected ways in which they contribute to resilience and healing. People enjoying seeing the process of creation and watching an image unfold. Often ideas were suggested and incorporated into the design: an added ladybug, a hidden nest, the Monarch butterfly, even tweaking areas to brighten or shifting colours. This builds connection with the environment and seemed to build morale and add a sense of identity to different neighborhoods within the building.

Many people associate nature with healing. The murals provide a view into outdoor scenes. Staff, as well as elders, have expressed that the murals offer a chance to rest for a few moments and regain focus in the middle of a busy day. Some even seek out the corner to boost energy or calm nerves when dealing with a moment of tension or frustration.

ABOUT

I am an artist and Art Therapist currently working in a long term complex care home. Presented with an opportunity to create murals for self-contained special care neighborhoods, I tried to create something beautiful, as well as to draw attention away from the exit doors.

These murals were so well received that it led to doing further murals, bringing brightness to dark areas of the building and bringing the outdoors inside, for those who could no longer easily venture out.

CONTACT

Instagram: @nikavaughanart
Email: nika.livingart@gmail.com

Aaron Zacharias

While I was developing my craft as a painter there were some major disruptions in my life that resulted in almost a year of couch surfing during the late nineties. As I became established in secure affordable housing, I developed the series of paintings of swarms of hummingbirds in flight, as represented in these four images. While I was not painting with a conscious mental health theme in mind, I am sure that to many these canvases would evoke a sense of liberation, joy, celebration and the emergence of light and flight out of darkness.

All the hummingbirds represented are real species, some of which I have seen during my travels in Costa Rica and in Colombia.

ABOUT

I am 64 years old, born and raised in Greater Vancouver. I currently live in a subsidized housing facility operated by More Than A Roof Housing with BC Housing.

CONTACT

Email: aaronbenjaminzacharias@gmail.com

A J Brown

I create my art as a way to stay sane in a world that makes no sense. Creating is my way to look beyond my problems. It is a way to uplift myself. Hopefully when other people see my art, they are also uplifted.

This year, my focus has been on the gene as my art inspiration.

ABOUT

I am deaf and I have a very rare genetic disease that eventually kills the person. This disease causes extreme exhaustion.

CONTACT

Website: http://handsandpurrs.ca/
Email: artbyajb@gmail.com

Asli Dawn

Anxiety

Control

Depression

Wants

As someone who has personally struggled with mental illness, I have found art to be a way of not only expressing myself artistically, but also communicating some of these complex feelings and sharing my story and struggles. While much of my artwork surrounding mental health started as a way to reclaim my own voice, it has now become a passion to give voice to others who might also be struggling.

ABOUT

I’m a graphic designer with a passion for fine arts and illustration. The main theme in most of my artwork is mental health awareness. I plan on returning to school to become an Expressive Arts Therapist.

CONTACT

Instagram: @aslidawn
Email: asli.rockar@gmail.com

Edzy Edzed

I have lived experience with issues of mental health, homelessness and addictions. I have accessed social services and still live in non-profit housing. I still deal with these themes as a professional artist. I have tried to capture that feeling of hopelessness and loneliness by depicting that despair through drawings of the DTES back lanes. Having recovered myself, I would like to give back to the community by offering for sale, artist proof prints on wood from this series for the benefit of charities in the poorest neighbourhood in Vancouver.

ABOUT

Edzy Edzed, (b. 1953, Port Arthur, ON, CA.) graduated from UVic in 1992, with a BFA (Hons) degree and a commitment to lifelong learning in the field of visual arts. His main interest for more than thirty years was in analyzing western art painting through the filter of deconstruction as described by the French philosopher; Jacques Derrida. During the past few years, he has focused on a series of ink sketches on wood depicting scenes in the alleys of the DTES which deals with issues such as the despair of mental illness, addiction and homelessness.

CONTACT

Email: edzy.edzed@gmail.com

Glenn Hesse

Being diagnosed with major health issues affects my day to day life. I took up painting as therapy, which helps me refocus to overcome my depression and physical issues.

Creating my images comes from an idea that I'm interested in or subject matter that I start with a message that speaks to me. Living in Vancouver is a blend of urbanism and nature, which has helped inspire me to depict the social aspects and the environment of the city. Creating paintings that spark conversations on all levels provides me with the impetus to continue producing works of art.

ABOUT

I am an emerging artists in Vancouver's DTES and a three-time DTES Small Art Grant Recipient. I am currently enrolled at Emily Carr University Art and Design and have completed both my Fine Arts and Painting Certificates in 2020 and am currently working on my Illustration Certificate.

CONTACT

Website: https://g-vizualart.com/
Instagram: @gvizualart
Email: gukheu@gmail.com

Iris Mes-Low

Left hanging

Urban Unicorn

Fragment of the Whole

Through the Trees

As a young teen and later for a time as an adult, I have experienced homelessness. I was without shelter, but seemed to be permanently couch surfing. This led to an almost dogmatic fascination with housing. It ran along the lines of: “Will I live in this house or this house?” “What will my house look like?” I remember being in a car and looking at every house we passed thinking this over and over. When I was able to live in a rental home, it involved countless moves. The house would be sold, the owner died or the house was slated for demolition. I have moved a total of 30 times during my lifetime.

As a child I was severely traumatised, and was later diagnosed with PTSD. I have had several diagnoses and treatments over the years. A coping mechanism I used was the escape into my imagination. Otherworldly landscapes were painted in my mind. This form of escape translated into my art practice. Painting has always been my most successful form of treatment. I paint who I am, with all my baggage. My work is a source of my healing. My work is of an ideal world, mostly devoid of humans. I sometimes paint houses, very unreal houses, doll-like houses. This is where my mind goes—to a world that is better, vaster and less populated. Often my work is compared to video games.

ABOUT

A third generation artist, Mes-Low apprenticed from 1985 onwards with several artists in The Netherlands and then worked as an artist, illustrator and muralist. In 1991, she made a permanent move to the West Coast of Canada where Mes-Low continued studies in art at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, BC.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.irismes-low.com/
Facebook: irismeslowart
Instagram: @irismeslow
Email: contact@irismes-low.com

Kelly Haydon

Heart Swell

Heart Attack

Heart Felt

Seeing Red

These pieces come from a place of love, joy and mirth, traits that help us be resilient. Love gives us the strength to go on, to deal with circumstances we normally don’t have the strength for and lifts us up out of ourselves. It turns the everyday into magical experience, brings laughter and heals.

ABOUT

Kelly Haydon is a Vancouver based painter and award winning printmaker whose work has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally and held in collections. The work has been published in books, journals, magazines and projected onto the side of buildings. She is a member of Malaspina Printmakers Society and Dundarave Print Workshop.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.kellyhaydon.com/
Email: kahaydon@yahoo.ca

Mike Levin

In my paintings about gentrification and densification, I try to evoke the precision of architecture mixed with the madness of the pace and overall changing neighbourhoods. I paint from my imagination and from the memories of exploring Vancouver as I watch this city growing upwards rather than outwards. I am anxious about our rapidly changing city. Gentrification and densification are rampaging Vancouver and the Lower Mainland with negative implications for the poor, lower class and now the middle class as well. Who will be able to afford rental units in ten years? Who can afford them now? Almost all renters are getting the squeeze.

Cranes are ubiquitous and I lament the days of old already. These are frightening times. Smaller units are being designed for many now and artists’ studio spaces are diminishing. What will happen to artistic expression when we have to work in smaller and smaller spaces?

ABOUT

Mike has lived in Vancouver for the past 25 years. He was trained as a draftsman and worked in that field for a few years before becoming disabled due to a mental illness in 2004. Since 2007, Mike has worked as an artist and has been teaching art since 2012 at various institutions including VGH hospital, The Art Studios, and Gallery Gachet. Mike is a recent graduate in 2020 of a BFA from Emily Carr University.

CONTACT

Website: http://www.michael-levin.com/
Instagram: @mike.levin
Email: mikelevin1121@gmail.com

Nina Aldewood

My work reflects upon the emotions and feelings I have within me and my work often reflects my mood. Bringing life to all these wild feelings and living with mental health issues, I can say my mood and emotions can be quite intense and vibrant. But with these reflections I really hope that my work brings joy and light to others, to inspire and to create happiness! My work is very therapeutic to me.

ABOUT

Nina Aldewood is the artist behind New Angle Art. She creates unique abstract paintings typically using acrylic paint.

CONTACT

Facebook: @newangleart
Instagram: @newangleart
Email: ninaaldewood@gmail.com 

Patricia Wilson

I see the blank white or black canvas as silence. My brushes, ink pens and paint pens present the voice of my consciousness.

ABOUT

Both of Patricia Wilson’ parents worked in a psychiatric hospital, and she worked in a psychiatric children’s hospital.

Thyroid issues suddenly turned her life from mental health staff to mental health patient. These health issues were followed by bipolar depression, then cancer. When her functional ability returned, so did art—first fashion art, then abstract clothing and hair design, acrylic portraits, and now abstract architecture. Patricia was a CMHA peer support worker and music director, so mental health was both her career choice and her artistic inspiration.

CONTACT

Email: fundraisingfashions@icloud.com

Sandra Yuen

Brook

Sunglow

Under Lions Gate

Windows to the Soul

My main focus is acrylic painting in various genres. I delved into painting as an escape and release from a mental illness after being diagnosed at age fifteen. Creativity has bridged my life from trauma to wellness. It is my solace and my joy.

My art is also a response to living in a time of conflict and uncertainty in the form of hope, personal healing, spirituality and transformation.

I paint cityscapes with themes of nostalgia, isolation, and anonymity. My landscapes show my appreciation for nature.

My intent is to harness my turmoil and negative experiences to fuel a body of work with constructive, positive expression. My message is recovery from mental illness is possible and to reduce stigma and build awareness.

ABOUT

Sandra Yuen is a visual artist and author of My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness and Chop Shtick, and co-author of From New York to Vancouver: Stories on the Fly under the pen name Sandra Yuen MacKay. She earned a Fine Arts Diploma from Langara College and Bachelor of Arts in art history from the University of British Columbia. She received the Courage to Come Back Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.syuenartist.com/
Instagram: @syuenartist
Email: sandra.mackay94@gmail.com

Tadafumi Tamura

Vancouver's Divide

A tent city known as “Camp KT” by camp organizers and supporters is located at the Strathcona Park, Vancouver, BC. While the number of the residents in this camp keeps growing, lots of development projects are also in progress only half a mile away from the camp. Vancouver’s Housing Divide 2020 illustrates a tangible contrast of Vancouver’s current scenes by bringing two images together that were shot in the same month.

ABOUT

Tadafumi Tamura is a photographer whose work crosses over the boundaries between social documentary and fine art. His mission is to expose local struggles, such as poverty, discriminations, lack of access to housing, to other communities across the world experiencing similar structural issues.

CONTACT

Website: https://www.tadtamurafoto.com/
Email: ttfotoworks@gmail.com