A long-running arts festival focused on mental health wants patrons to #GetMad about depression and suicide.
This year, Rendezvous with Madness will utilize a social media hashtag, #GetMad, to encourage even further conversations about mental health via Twitter and other platforms, said festival executive director Kelly Straughan.
“What we’ve seen in the last few years is people are much more open to talk about their mental health struggles,” said Straughan. “More people are willing to talk about experiences, which can be powerful, and we’re hoping to harness that.”
Rendezvous with Madness was the world’s first film festival solely dedicated to exploring themes of mental health when it debuted 27 years ago. In recent years, the festival has expanded its offerings beyond film to include visual art, theatre and standup comedy, all focusing on themes of mental health and illness.
The festival, which is primarily based in Workman Arts on Dufferin Street, also organizes regular discussions on mental health, including post-screening Q&As, between artists, mental health practitioners and the audience. Even with initiatives like Let’s Talk and the willingness of public figures to talk about their experiences, a stigma surrounding mental illness remains, Straughan believes.
“Anecdotally people feel shame, secrecy, and it speaks volumes where we’re at as a society,” said Straughan. “Until the dialogue changes there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The 10-day festival will debut on Thursday, World Mental Health Day, with a screening of the documentary “Conviction,” which focuses on the struggles of female inmates of a Nova Scotia correctional institution. The screening takes place at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema.
Rather than impose their own vision, the filmmakers provided inmates with their own hand-held video cameras to capture their incarceration, freedom and all too often their subsequent return to prison.
“Too often there’s a lack of support (for inmates) who are handed a bus ticket to a world that doesn’t support mental health or addiction needs,” said Straughan.
A panel discussion is planned after the screening featuring the filmmakers, some of the film’s subjects and the Elizabeth Fry Society, which provides post-incarceration support and empowerment for female convicts.
Toronto playwright Grace Thompson’s new work for the festival, the dark comedy “In This House,” focuses on the effects of depression and suicide on millennials.
As its title suggests, much of “In This House” takes place within the confines of a single living room where over the course of a year, friends and housemates, all in their 20s, react to life-shattering events in their personal lives.
The plot was inspired by Thompson and peers’ struggles with depression and uncertainty following graduation from theatre school. Tragically, one of Thompson’s former classmates died by suicide during that time.
“Everyone was in a deep dark place, and I wanted to understand how we talk about suicide and depression,” Thompson, 29, said in Stratford, Ont., last week.
“Mental health can be like a massive weight. There’s a constant struggle and pressure everyone is up against.”
In addition to theatre and film, Rendezvous with Madness will host a visual art exhibition over the festival’s 10 days at the Toronto Media Arts Centre, at 32 Lisgar Street.
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“Making Mad” will dedicate gallery space to large-scale multimedia presentations, as well as a discussion panel with the six featured artists, said exhibition curator Claudette Abrams.
“There has always been a visual component to the festival, but (with the exhibition) we’re making it more defined,” said Abrams. “We’ve always sought a gallery space to have more multimedia and performances.”
Edmonton autistic artist remembered for achieving 'improbable territory' – CBC.ca
Colleagues, family and friends are mourning the death of Matthew Wong, an Edmonton artist diagnosed with autism who was recognized internationally for his landscape paintings.
Wong, 35, died on Oct. 2. Family and friends confirmed he died by suicide.
“I am in total shock,” said Monita Cheng, Wong’s mother.
“He’s an extremely talented person. He’s a lovely son. He’s extremely kind. He cares about people; he loves to help people,” she said.
“He was voracious in everything that he did in life,” said Brendan Dugan, the owner of Karma, a gallery in New York City that represented Wong.
“He accomplished more in the short time he was painting and making work than most people probably do in their whole lives,” he said.
‘Instant recognition of his talent’
According to Dugan, Wong wasn’t trained as a painter; his artwork started from poetry and then translated into photography. He taught himself how to paint.
Wong earned a bachelor of arts degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2007. In 2013, he completed a masters of fine arts in photography at City University of Hong Kong.
“Matthew was very unusual in a lot of ways, his presence was kind of uncanny,” Dugan said.
He first met Wong through Outside, a group art show hosted by Karma on Sept. 3, 2016.
“Once Matthew was included in this group show, there was kind of an immediate and instant recognition of his talent,” Dugan said.
“There was always this kind of layering of symbolism and poetry, within the idea of a landscape or nature.”
‘Improbable territory for a young artist’
By 35, Wong had three solo exhibitions — two in Hong Kong and one in New York City. He has one more with Karma that’s forthcoming. Wong was also featured in 13 group exhibitions and two publications.
David Moos, the owner of David Moos Art Advisory, said he came across Wong’s work at Karma.
Moos was also the modern and contemporary curator for the Art Gallery of Ontario from 2004 to 2011.
“Painting is an extremely challenging medium. It’s a demanding and difficult medium today to make meaningful and relevant paintings, and I think Matthew accomplished that at the very highest level which is remarkable for a person his age,” Moos said.
“I think he brought his life experience to bear on what is improbable territory for a young artist to to tackle.”
Moos said Wong’s paintings allow people to “step aside from our everyday realm.”
“To look to Van Gogh is almost anecdotal at this point,” he said. “It is utterly contemporary. There’s there’s a plain spoken beauty in his work that I think is genuine and earnest.”
Mental health struggles
Wong was born in Toronto on March 8, 1984, though he and his family moved frequently between Hong Kong and Toronto.
According to Cheng, Wong struggled with depression while growing up.
He was diagnosed with autism as a child and, by 14, he was diagnosed with depression and prescribed anti-depressants.
Wong began seeing a psychiatrist at four years old.
He also saw child psychologists to help him with his social skills, Cheng said, adding it was difficult for Wong to make friends because they moved often.
By 16, doctors diagnosed Wong with Tourette syndrome, a brain condition causing people to make involuntary sounds and movements.
“He’d try different jobs and he says it’s not possible for him because he always had problems. His interpersonal skills were very, very poor,” Cheng said.
Cheng said her son loved North America and disliked Hong Kong, but he continued to live there because collectors there supported his paintings.
In 2016, Wong relocated to Edmonton with his parents. They lived closed to the High Level Bridge.
“Even when we were travelling, he would have have a sketchbook, he would sit down by Starbucks, get coffee [and] he would just sketch and draw,” Cheng said. “He said he loved Edmonton.”
It was in Edmonton that Wong met Matthew Higgs, director of White Columns, a gallery in New York City, which later featured Wong’s art.
‘He felt that he’s very lucky’
Cheng said despite her son’s struggles, he knew he was “lucky.”
“Even though he suffers a lot because of the mental issues, he felt that he’s very lucky,” she said. “I think Matthew really wanted to be recognized as a great Canadian artist.”
“Me and my husband, we are extremely proud of our son. He had a lot of struggle, but he also has a very strong mind.
He’s like rock solid, you know.”
Wong’s family and colleagues are holding a memorial service at the Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home, at 100th Avenue and 114th Street on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m.
The Karma gallery in New York City will also host an exhibit featuring Wong’s work, planned before Wong’s death. The exhibit is called Blue and runs from Nov. 8 to Dec. 22.
Saskatoon tattoo artist has year-long wait list – Global News
“I will be opening my books in January and we will see how things go,” he told Global News.
Appointments for Zabos and the four other artists who work at his tattoo shop, Art Sharks Tattoo, are scarce because of the demand for their unique designs.
“For inspiration we will take what the client wants, like what their ideas are, and then we will go from there,” he said.
“As artists we do a lot of custom stuff, so we create everything mostly from what’s inside our heads.”
He said designing something the client likes enough to carry with them for the rest of their life involves discussions, which can get very personal.
“I have done a few like memorial pieces and stuff that’s really kind of touched the customer,” he said.
“I think it’s good to help them heal through sometimes a tattoo as well.”
Darla Lindbjerg, CEO of the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, said the success makes sense, given the quality of the tattoo.
“If people are having a good experience and you are offering a great quality product, people will come back,” she said.
Zabos said part of the reward is knowing his art has such intense meaning for those who wear it.
“Sometimes it gets a little emotional when you finish the tattoo, just to have that closure for some people depending on what the situation of the tattoo is,” he said.
“But it’s really satisfying to make them happy and (know) they can enjoy it for the rest of their lives.”
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Artist looking to make Waterloo Region more 'WorldRooted' – KitchenerToday.com
It’s a movement drawing community together in a positive place, and it’s coming to the Region.
‘WorldRooted: the Art Project for People’ founder Bethany Ann Davidson from Goderich, says they have been organizing art shows and cultural events to provide a space for people to develop their networks and find support.
“We’re really just looking to help people find their voice, to support charities both locally and around the world, shine a light on the good and let people connect.” says Davidson.
Davidson says she began WorldRooted in 2018, after learning that a friend and her family were experiencing survivor’s guilt after they had moved to Canada from Syria.
She says her friend and her husband were sending everything they could back to their families who had nothing.
“I really wanted them to know that I felt for them, so I made a painting and when I sold it, I gave all of the money to them.” says Davidson, “And it’s been kind of like that ever since.”
On October 26th, WorldRooted will be in Waterloo to hold an art event at the Seven Shores Community Cafe.
The solo art show gives residents the opportunity to check out Davidson’s latest work and will offer food and beverages for purchase.
According to Davidson, the location for this event was chosen because of her relationship with co-owners of the cafe and the community built around Seven Shores Cafe.
“My friends Steve and Deb Tulloch, who co-own Seven Shores Cafe, they really had a large impact on me on what it means to love and to live well.” says Davidson, “So when I said ‘Hey, I would love to have an artisan at your cafe,’ they said ‘Hey, that would be awesome!’ ”
“We’re just going to get together, those of us who are available that night.” says Davidson, “There will be live music, and we’re just going to have a really nice time.”
Davidson says because of the Tulloch’s involvement with the International Association for Refugees Canada, and their relationship with Adventure4Change owner Jeremy Horne, she decided to donate 25 per cent of all proceeds on October 26th to these charities, and Reception House Waterloo Region.
Davidson says her display hanging at the cafe focuses on food like chickpeas, coffee plants and sugar cane, plants that are grown in different countries but are used everyday by Canadians.
“A lot of Canadians have seen these pieces and not known what the plant was that was in the art,” says Davidson, “And that’s because they didn’t grown up growing coffee plants, or sugar cane or whatever else.”
“It’s meant to help us see more of our global village, and help then to also recognize that there are people in our community who do recognize these plants and do have a past that is closely connected to this flora.”
Davidson says with her work and WorldRooted, she hopes to inspire conversation between people to foster better understanding each other.
“I believe that artists make art because they have something that needs to come out.” says Davidson, “I’m just putting it out there for people to see, and hopefully people want to buy and take it home, and it becomes a conversation starter for the rest of their lives.”
To learn more about the event, click here.
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