For 11 years, North York General Hospital's (NYGH) Mental Health Art and Craft Show has been an annual highlight, showcasing the creative spirit of people living with and recovering from a mental illness and/or addiction. And every year, event founder Theresa Claxton is amazed by both the incredible work on display and the palpable buzz the event generates.
“There's something very special about this show, it's inspiring on all fronts,” Theresa says. “I believe art is a powerful tool to explore emotions such as hope and resilience. It really comes through in the artists' pieces.”
Show spreads awareness of mental health issues
The event features a wide range of paintings, photography, jewellery and crafts and is open to community members, patients and families as well as staff, physicians and volunteers. It was created in 2006 when Theresa, along with other members of NYGH's Participants' Council, identified a real need to reduce stigma and spread awareness about mental health issues.
The council comprises people who have experienced mental health and/or addiction and works in partnership with staff, community service providers and other consumer/ survivor organizations to ensure the best possible quality of life and standard of care is available to psychiatric survivors, both in the hospital setting and out in the community.
Theresa Claxton, Founder of the Mental Health Art and Craft Show
“I thought an art show would be a fun way for people to express themselves while also promoting an important cause,” Theresa says. “In the first year, we only had about eight artists but momentum grew and we now have 30 participants who showcase some of the most extraordinary work.”
Running the event for 11 years has been very gratifying, according to Theresa, and there have been many memorable moments that cement for her the power of expression. “One year, I had an artist who was absolutely thrilled to have made $100 on her artwork,” she says. “This was not only because she received recognition for her work; it was because she was going to be able to feed her children a great meal.”
“It reminded me that everyone's situation is unique and she was able to tell her story through creative expression. That is what the Mental Health Art and Craft Show is all about.”
The NYGH Mental Health Program and Participants' Council 11th Annual Art and Craft Show & Sale will be held Wednesday, May 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Nanji Academic Centre at the General site (4001 Leslie St.). The show is open to the public.