Why does art have anything to do with mental illness?

Here We Are: bare/witness

Opening for “Here We Are: bare/witness” a sculpture exhibit at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, December 16, 2010.

I have worked for years as a clinical psychologist in Toronto.  I was respectful, but not particularly interested in how art contributed to healing until artist Susan Schellenberg asked me to give feedback on text she wrote for her Shedding Skins paintings, first exhibited at Women’s College Hospital in 1992.  Our conversations eventually led to a book, Committed to the Sane Asylum .  I saw more events related to emotional pain, mental illness, wellness, and recovery and became fired with excitement about how such events can heal individuals, family and community.  Images dancing in my head demanded a larger stage, so I decided to write about these productions and my reactions.

Visual art, music, dance, drama, film, stand-up comedy, and more have been and are being created in relation to emotional pain, mental illness, recovery, and healing. Some work is done by professional artists, but other work has been created by individuals affected by emotional pain or mental illness, but not considering themselves to be artists or with no previous involvement in the arts. Sometimes, artists and non-artists collaborate.

Sane About Town will have regular posts where I review such arts productions. I hope to start a community of conversation related to arts productions, healing and transformation. The next post, scheduled for release on November 14, 2012, reviews the Theatre Passe Muraille Queen Street West Project, Dancing In the Streets.  Upcoming posts will review the Shedding Skins exhibit at CAMH, the Touched By Fire website, and will discuss emotional pain, lived experience, recovery and healing. I look forward to your reactions. Please comment to let me know whether I’m on the mark or wandering badly.

If you’re planning an event and would like to list it here, please use my contact page to connect with me.

Now on or upcoming:  Being Scene, November 9-17, 2012, Workman Arts, 651 Dufferin Street, Toronto; 20th Annual Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival, November 9-17, 2012, Toronto; Transformation by Fire, February 7-April 8, 2013, 111 Queen’s Park, Gardiner Museum, Toronto.


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