Published on March 15th, 2017 | from CAMH

Being Scene Exhibit is Back for 2017

There was a collective buzz at the Gladstone Hotel on the evening of March 2, as art aficionados, Workman Arts’ members and supporters, friends and family gathered to celebrate the opening of this year’s Being Scene Art Exhibit.

Now celebrating its 16th year, Being Scene is an annual group art exhibition featuring Workman artists. The show pushes the boundaries of imagination and visual storytelling to bring stories of mental illness and addiction to light, using a variety of artistic mediums. Each year, the juried exhibition receives entries from artists with lived experience, vying for the chance to have their work on the walls of the boutique hotel’s gallery space. This year, 65 pieces from 47 artists were selected and are currently on display. Most of these pieces are also up for sale, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to the artists.

An important milestone and a fond farewell

Not lost among the evening’s activities was the sobering realization that Lisa Brown, Workman Arts’ founder and Executive Director, will be retiring this year. This comes as the organization celebrates its 30th anniversary– a milestone that warrants special recognition on its own– from its humble beginnings at what was once known as the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, to its future home in the next phase of CAMH’s Queen Street Redevelopment Project.

“Art has had an important role in shifting paradigms; in changing the way we see an individual – when we don’t see them as ‘patient’ or we don’t see them as an ‘artist’ but we see them as they are,” said Lisa, as she spoke about the early days of Workman Arts and its lasting impact.

“This is not my last Being Scene,” she added. “It’s my last one as a staff member at Workman Arts, but you can bet I’ll be here to see the work continue to evolve.”

The work at Workman Arts

“I first heard about Workman Arts when it was still called Workman Theatre Projects,” said Lisa Walter, a Workman Arts member and former CAMH client. “I became a member back in 2010 when some of my works were accepted for this show. I had been in hospital for about six months at CAMH, and I got out, and there was my work hanging on the wall… It was the first time I had ever exhibited professionally, and it was the first time I’d ever sold work. It changed how I saw myself… I can tell you that walking in (to see my work exhibited)… blew my mind.”

She addressed the new artists in the room in hopes that they all remember Workman’s continued evolution. “Maybe you got to see your work hanging alongside that of your peers… and if that’s the case, then like me you have Lisa Brown to thank.” She was effusive in her praise of Brown adding that, “At the helm with her leadership, she has helped to create not just an opportunity for artists with mental illness, but a conversation about mental illness in the way that I have not seen.”

“Workman Arts is about professionalizing artists’ practice… There’s no compromise made. There’s no accommodation made. This is the real deal, and it’s unique.”

Being Scene, Being Heard

Claudette Adams, the incoming Visual Arts Coordinator, has been busy helping curate this year’s show – one she hopes will resonate with audiences regardless of whether they have lived experience or not.

“Although there is no over-riding theme, the work is unified by a certain urgency to express particular ways of being, seeing and experiencing the world. The diversity in the range of practices and approaches offers an insightful range of views and perspectives,” she said.

This year, Workman Arts will be expanding the show to include a spoken component, aptly titled ‘Being Heard’. Partnering with Raconteurs Storytelling and Myseum, the March 23rd event will focus on mental health stories, as told by both Workman Arts’ members and participants from the Raconteurs network.

The Being Scene exhibit is open daily from Noon – 5 p.m., free of charge at the Gladstone Hotel until March 27.

The Being Heard evening takes place on March 23 from 6 – 9 p.m.

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